Characteristics and Properties of Cancer Cells

A tumor is an abnormal overgrowth of tissues. It is autonomous, independent and uncontrolled growth of tissues consisting of a chunk of abnormal cells. Like parasites, tumors serve no beneficial purpose in our body. They grow by snatching the nutrients by provided the food we eat to the healthy cells. This article tries to learn the characteristics and properties of these malignant cells.

What are the Characteristics of Cancer Cells?

  • The origin of a tumor is from the existing cells or tissues of the body.
  • The tumor grows following its own laws and is not regulated by the existing laws of biology.
  • Generally, cells divide from their embryonic cells into smaller independent entities. In case of cancer cells, they have the ability to form the undifferentiated cells back from being differentiated. This property is called Anaplasia.
  • The rate of growth and multiplication of these cells is several times faster than the ordinary healthy cells.
  • Malignant cells do not perform the tasks carried out by healthy cells.
  • They have large and irregularly shaped nuclei.
  • These cells lose the contact from the tumor from which they originate and can spread to fresh locations of the body to grow and survive independently.

What are the Properties of Cancer Cells?

Contact Inhibition:

It is the property of normal cells to stop dividing and moving around once they come in contact with other healthy cells. This event is called contact inhibition. Malignant cancer cells have no contact inhibition.

The nucleus of cancer cells is large and irregular shaped. The interior of the nucleus is also large and shows hypertrophy.

Chromosomal abnormality:

Chromosomes are the chemical instructions followed by any cells. They are made up of DNA molecules. Changes in the location of these molecules from their regular sites lead to onset of cancer.

Plasma Membrane:

The external surface of cells is known as plasma membrane. It separates the contents of the cells from its immediate surroundings. In case of cancer cells, the outer surface is leaky. In this way, these cells acquire the property of invading other healthy tissues of the body.

Growth Promoting Factors:

The cancer cells release large amount of a chemical which can cause excessive growth of abnormal cells. This release is possible owing to the leaky external surface of the malignant cells. When these chemicals reach the external surface of healthy cells, the former can change the latter into malignant cells.


In normal cells, two centrioles are close to each other and positioned at right angles to each other. In cancer cells, they are separated randomly by long distances, oriented to each other arbitrarily and are not connected to each other too.


Knowledge of these characteristics and properties of cancer cells can help us understand how they cause destruction in the patients suffering from this dreadful ailment.

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