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Cancer Risks

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Introduction

Cancer is a disease that might result from one or many factors, including your genes, your environment, your diet, or from changes that happen inside your body. In cancer, certain cells in your body start to grow and divide out of control. Eventually, these cells form clumps of unhealthy, fast-growing cells that interfere with your body’s normal functions. In this lesson, you will learn more about cancer and examine some of the possible causes of this disease.


Exploration

Begin by reading the article Toxicville. Answer the corresponding questions using the Cancer Risks student sheet your teacher has provided.

Many serious disorders, including cancer, can arise from a combination of inherited risk factors and environmental conditions. Researchers have identified a growing number of gene-related diseases. This also has led to an increased importance of genetic testing to screen for these conditions. In this part of the lesson, you will learn some basic information about the genetic connection to cancer risks by reading Understanding Gene Testing, a booklet prepared by the National Cancer Institute and the National Center for Human Genome Research.

After you have read the excerpts, answer the corresponding questions on your student sheet and be prepared to discuss your answers with the class.

We have learned that cancer is caused by an abnormal change in a cell’s DNA. But what causes this change? In this part of the lesson, you will read about some of the things that can cause cancer and about things that can increase a person’s risk for developing cancer.

Begin by reading the following sections on the Known and Probable Carcinogens page of the American Cancer Society:

  • What Is a Carcinogen?
  • How Do We Determine if Something Is a Carcinogen?

After you have read the excerpts, answer the corresponding questions on your student sheet and be prepared to discuss your answers with the class.

Then read Risk Factors.  Answer the corresponding questions on your student sheet and be prepared to discuss your answers with the class.


Knowledge Check

You should now have an understanding that all cells have the potential to become cancerous and that both environmental and hereditary factors contribute to the development of cancer. Moreover, you should be aware, after the readings, that it is difficult to correlate a single cause with cancer for any one person.

Write in a journal or share your ideas with the class about these questions:

  • Do you feel at risk for developing cancer? Why, or why not?
  • Why does knowing about your environment help you understand your risk of developing cancer?
  • If you are exposed to a certain industrial chemical or pollutant, does it mean that you will develop cancer?
  • What choices might you make if you know that you have been exposed to such a chemical or pollutant or if you know that you carry a hereditary mutation?

On your own, you can learn more about cancer and the environment by going to Cancer and the Environment: What You Need to Know and What You Can Do, which is a booklet that addresses concerns about the connection between cancer and exposure to toxic substances in the environment. Published by the National Institutes of Health, it contains information about which types of substances are either known to cause or likely to cause cancer. It also explains how scientists discover which substances are likely to cause cancer.


This esheet is a part of the Cancer Risks lesson.

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Esheet Details

Grades
AAAS