The Faces of Cancer
Focus: Students participate in a role play about people who develop cancer,
assemble data about the people’s experiences with cancer, then discuss the gen
eralizations that can be drawn from these data.
Major Concepts: Cancer is a group of more than 100 diseases that develop
across time. Cancer can develop in virtually any of the body’s tissues, and both
hereditary and environmental factors contribute to its development.
Objectives: After completing this activity, students will
• understand that there are many types of cancer,
• recognize that the incidence of cancer increases with age,
understand that some people inherit predispositions to particular types of
understand that some people make choices that increase their risk for cancer;
be able to explain that a person’s chance of surviving cancer increases with
early detection and treatment.
Prerequisite Knowledge: None
Basic Science-Public Health Connection: This opening activity introduces can
cer as a public health issue that can be systematically studied using the meth
ods of science (for example, gathering and analyzing data).
At a Glance
As described in Understanding Cancer, cancer is a group of diseases that are
characterized by uncontrolled cell division. This uncontrolled division can com
promise the function of an organism and ultimately may cause its death.
Each of us has a chance of developing cancer sometime in our life. On average,
in the United States, men have a 1 in 2 lifetime risk of developing cancer and
women a 1 in 3 risk. Many Americans, however, have a higher than average
chance of developing particular forms of cancer. For example, smokers have a
10-fold higher risk of developing lung cancer compared with nonsmokers.
Likewise, women who have a mother, sister, or daughter who has had breast
cancer have about a 2-fold higher chance of developing breast cancer compared
with women who do not have such a family history.
The National Cancer Institute estimates