Changes in mechanical properties of cells are closely related to a variety of diseases. As an advanced technology on the micro/nano scale, atomic force microscopy is the most suitable tool for information acquisition of living cells in human body fluids. AFMs are able to measure and characterize the mechanical properties of cells which can be used as effective markers to distinguish between different cell types and cells in different states (benign or cancerous). Therefore, they can be employed to obtain additional information to that obtained via the traditional biochemistry methods for better identifying and diagnosing cancer cells for humans, proposing better treatment methods and prognosis, and unravelling the pathogenesis of the disease. In this report, we review the use of AFMs in cancerous tissues, organs, and cancer cells cultured in vitro to obtain cellular mechanical properties, demonstrate and summarize the results of AFMs in cancer biology, and look forward to possible future applications and the direction of development.

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