Should Cancer Be Capitalized

The issue of capitalization surrounding certain terms, such as ‘cancer’, is often discussed in the field of medical writing. While it may seem trivial, correctly capitalizing these terms can greatly affect the clarity and professionalism of medical or health-related content. This article will delve into the guidelines for capitalizing ‘cancer’ and the reasons behind it.

The General Rule

For the most part, the word ‘cancer’ should not be capitalized. This is because it is a common noun rather than a proper noun. According to the English language rules, common nouns are general words for people, places, things, or ideas and are not typically capitalized unless they begin a sentence. On the other hand, proper nouns are specific names for individuals, places, organizations, or things and are always capitalized. For example, ‘cancer’ refers to a general term for diseases characterized by abnormal cell growth. Hence, it is a common noun.

"Cancer is a group of diseases characterized by uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells."

Exceptions to the Rule

Even though ‘cancer’ is generally not capitalized, there are a few exceptions. If the word ‘cancer’ is part of a title or is used in the context of a specific name or brand, it should be capitalized. This applies to cancer types that are named after people or places, organizations, or initiatives related to cancer.

"John was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Cancer."
"National Breast Cancer Foundation raises awareness and funding for breast cancer research."

Confusion with Other Terms

One area where confusion may arise is when the word ‘cancer’ is used to refer to the astrological sign or the constellation. In these contexts, ‘Cancer’ should be capitalized as it is a proper noun.

"She was born under the sign of Cancer."


Whether or not to capitalize ‘cancer’ may seem like a minor detail, but it’s actually an important consideration in writing, especially in a professional or academic context. Understanding the rules and knowing when to apply them can help you produce clear, accurate, and professional content.

It’s always a good idea to consult a reliable style guide if you’re unsure about capitalizing medical terms. Remember, the ultimate goal is to communicate effectively and clearly with your audience.