Skin Cancer among Caucasians


CDC. “Skin Cancer Rates by Race and Ethnicity.” Last Modified January 18, 2013.

The health disparity among Caucasians that I chose was skin cancer. Skin cancer is connected to the amount of melanin because it helps protect the skin against the sun’s harmful rays. Melanin is produce by melanocytes, cells that are found in the epidermis, the outmost layer of the skin. Dark skin pigmentation is the result of greater amounts of melanin. This is also why this is a health disparity that is genetically based. Genetics are responsible for the differences in skin color because of the genes that influence melanin productions. Melanin in Caucasians provide an SPF of about 3.4, where in African Americans, the SPF is estimated to be 13.4 (Skin Cancer Foundation).

More interestingly, I found an article that connects obesity and skin cancer rates in Caucasians. There study suggested that a BMI of 30 or greater resulted in a significantly lower risk for both basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma in comparison to those with a BMI ranging from 18.5-24.9 (Pothiawla 2012). As covered in lessons in class, obesity can often result from poor diet and exercise, which is commonly associated with social class. The lower class typically cannot afford healthier food and resources for exercise. This usually results in a multitude of health issues like diabetes, but this article was interesting because I personally had no idea obesity could lead to something like skin cancer.

What I gathered from class this week is that race, which cannot be genetically tested, is not an accurate way to determine health. A good example that tied the three factors to was the Pima Indian example. A gene found among the Pima’s is connected to a diabetes problem found within 38 percent of the population. However, the gene only provides a greater risk for diabetes, but a good diet and exercise would greatly curve the chance of diabetes emerging. More often it is socioeconomic factors that influence health as expressed in the video “In Sickness and Health”. Race can only be confirmed if a person defines themselves as a certain race. The Human Genome project had proved that race was not genetically based. In summary, though certain genes can influence health outcomes, lifestyle choices heavily influence health.

Skin Cancer Foundation. “Skin Cancer and Skin of Color.” Accessed July 10, 2013.
Pothiawala, Salma. “Obesity and the Incidence of Skin Cancer in US Caucasians.” Cancer Causes Control 5 (2012): 717-726. Accessed July 11, 2013. doi: 10.1007/s10552-012-9941-x.


This Post Has 1 Comment

  1. Tyler Kavanagh says:

    Reading through your post I found the point that you plugged in from the “In Sickness and in Wealth” video, was well played. I agree completely with race being something that people may think is completely genetic when in reality it’s based on how one classifies themselves in almost a segregative way. Definitely a very valid point when talking about connections between “race” and diseases. Obviously though when talking about skin color with respect to skin cancer, as you pointed out, “race” or skin color genetics does play a large part.
    I do like how you pointed out other confounding variables such as social class status and overall activity. Also adding on to that I would definitely like to see some statistics related to skin cancers may be controlling for other variables too, such as smokers/non-smokers, and may be even geographically where cases of skin cancers are most prevalent. With respect to location may be a certain type of “race” lives in an area in which may receive more sun than other locations possibly leading to a higher prevalence in cases amongst that race in that location. Not that I’m implying this the case but I’d be interested to see if demographics play a part in skin cancer incidents.

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