Histologically normal tissue adjacent to the tumor (NAT) is commonly used as a control in cancer studies. However, little is known about the transcriptomic profile of NAT, how it is influenced by the tumor, and how the profile compares with non-tumor-bearing tissues. Here, we integrate data from the Genotype-Tissue Expression project and The Cancer Genome Atlas to comprehensively analyze the transcriptomes of healthy, NAT, and tumor tissues in 6506 samples across eight tissues and corresponding tumor types. Our analysis shows that NAT presents a unique intermediate state between healthy and tumor. Differential gene expression and protein–protein interaction analyses reveal altered pathways shared among NATs across tissue types. We characterize a set of 18 genes that are specifically activated in NATs. By applying pathway and tissue composition analyses, we suggest a pan-cancer mechanism of pro-inflammatory signals from the tumor stimulates an inflammatory response in the adjacent endothelium.