Skin Cancer Investigation

Skin Cancer Investigation


In this activity, you'll explore the science behind keeping skin healthy. Learn how it functions to protect the body and what can be done to protect skin cells from mutations caused by excessive sun exposure.


Before you access the SCI: Skin Cancer Investigation interactive, quickly review the basics of cell reproduction, particularly the somatic cells that are duplicated by the cell division process called mitosis. Somatic cells are the body cells in your skin, hair, and muscle.

Go to the Biological Basis of Heredity: Cell Reproduction and read about mitosis, then answer these questions using your Cell Division and Skin Cancer Investigation student sheet:

  • What is the most common form of cell replication?
  • What are somatic cells?
  • What is mitosis?
  • How many phases of mitosis do somatic cells go through and in what amount of time?

Now go to The Science Inside Skin and read the Introduction and Part 1: Skin Form and Function. As you are reading, think about your answers to these questions and write the answers on the student sheet.

  • What is the largest organ in humans?
  • What is the primary function of our skin?
  • How else does the skin act to protect you?
  • The skin has three layers. Do you know what they are?
  • Do you think skin color provides added protection from environmental elements, like the sun?

Go to SCI: Skin Cancer Investigation and enter the site.  Begin with the Healthy Skin section and read about the three layers of the skin by clicking on the image of the skin on the right. Next answer these questions:

  • What are the types of cells in the epidermis and how are they related to each other?
  • What is melanin and what is its role in the epidermis?
  • What is keratin and what does it do?
  • What are the two primary features of the dermis?
  • Describe the subcutaneous tissue.

To continue through the interactive, click on the right arrow at the bottom of the screen to go to the section Effects of the Sun on the Skin and watch the animation about the benefits of the sun and risks of sunlight. Then answer these questions:

  • Name the main benefits of sunlight.
  • What are some of the benefits of the sun's UV rays?
  • How are these rays harmful?

Now go to the section titled Causes and read about how over-exposure to the sun can cause skin cancer. Watch the animation on how normal cells multiply and divide to replace damaged or dead cells. Then answer these questions:

  • How do UV rays affect normal cell division?
  • Why do some people have a greater chance of developing skin cancer compared to others?

Continue on to Tumors and answer this question:

  • What are the main differences between benign and malignant tumors?

Now click on and read the Common Risk Factors. Click on each factor to learn more about the risks. Then answer these questions:

  • What are the five most common modifiable risk factors of skin cancer?
  • How can where you live increase your chances of developing skin cancer?
  • How does genetics play a role?
  • What is actinic keratosis?

This esheet is a part of the Skin Cancer 1: Exposing Healthy Skin to the Sun lesson.

Did you find this resource helpful?

Esheet Details

Grades State Standards