Cancer and Crabs
Strange History that They Both Share

When I was very young and still in elementary school, my parents would go to the Jersey Shore for vacations. We stayed at seaside towns like Ocean City and Beach Haven. During our time at the shore, my dad would take me out on a small boat, and we would go crabbing. Crabbing was something about which I was more than capable of handling even though I was not even ten years old at the time. I enjoyed the experience of catching crabs.

The Childrens Museum of Indianapolis - Atlantic blue crab.jpg

Bluefin crab

If you are ever down at the New Jersey seashore, go crabbing. All that you need is a piece of string about five feet long and the head of fish. That is all. Tie the head of the fish to the string, through it overboard, and hold the other end of the string. Pull the string several times, and it will not be long before a crab has grabbed hold of the fish head. Just pull in the crab; it will not let go of the fish head with its pincher. Nowadays, you can get wire traps, which will achieve the same results. However, I am Scottish; the string is a lot cheaper than wire traps.

Just writing about those times crabbing makes me want to go back to the Jersey Shore and go crabbing with Jack and Owen, my grandsons. Would they be excited pulling in crabs?

In the meantime, while researching on the Internet, I happened upon an article about medical research regarding cancer and the relationship to crabs. While I am not a medical doctor, I am keenly aware of cancer having dealt with prostate cancer...successfully so far. Therefore, I do know much about cancer. However, I came across information about which I never knew.

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Hippocrates of Kos

Hippocrates of Kos lived 2400 years ago on the Greek island of Kos just off the coast of present day Turkey. Hippocrates is considered the Father of Medicine in the Western world. He did a great deal of research on cancer, which he called kαρκινος (karkinos), which means in Greek, crab. That caught my attention.

Hippocrates noticed that the malignant tumor was very hard to the touch; hence, he compared it with the shell of a crab, which is also very hard. Additionally, those suffering from cancer often complained about sharp pain in the affected area. He related the pain to that of a crab's pincher when crabs take hold of a finger of a person.

Aulus Cornelius Celsus

Aulus Cornelius Celsus lived in the first half of the first century AD. He wrote eight books under the general title: De Medicina (On Medicine). There is not much known about Celsus. However, he was not a medical doctor. Nevertheless, he did a great deal of research, which resulted in De Medicina. In addition, he used Hippocrates' term, kαρκινος and translated into carcino, the Latin term for the Greek word, crab.

Galen of Pergamum

Galen of Pergamum was a Roman doctor and lived a century after Celsus. Today, he is known as the Father of Anatomy. He added to the crab/cancer issue by noting how the malignant tumor sent out tentacles, which radiated from cancer. These tentacles were like crab legs.

Today, the medical professionals have adopted another Greek term, oncology. Oncology comes from the Greek word, ονκος (onkos), which means mass or tumor.

It has been nearly a lifetime since I went crabbing with my dad along the Jersey Shore. At this end of my life, I am connecting the dots related to crabs. Interestingly, seven years ago, I dealt with prostate cancer...successful. Still another dot that I have connected is my love for any food containing crabmeat. This recipe for deviled crab is one of my favorite.

Deviled Crabs

1½ pound of drained crabmeat lumps
6 eggs
1½ cups chopped green onions
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons grated lemon rind
1½ cups butter
4 cups breadcrumbs, divided
1 cup chopped parsley
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Salt and pepper to taste


Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Add 1 cup melted butter, 4 cups breadcrumbs, and next 3 ingredients. Spoon crabmeat mixture into 10 baking shells or individual baking dishes.

Top servings evenly with remaining 1 cup breadcrumbs; drizzle evenly with remaining 1/2 cup melted butter. Bake, uncovered, at 400° for 20 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Turn oven setting to broil. Broil 3 minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately.

I got this recipe from I modified it only slightly.

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