Skin Cancer among Caucasians

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For my health disparity, I chose skin cancer among Caucasian Americans because of the over-whelming support of data. One theory of greater skin cancer incidence in Caucasians versus other races is that other races often have a greater amount of Melanin in the skin which can serve as an additional protective layer against UV radiation and can also prevent DNA damage. In addition, from my experience in working in the indoor tanning industry for six years, I found it more common for caucasians to utilize indoor tanning and it is common amongst indoor tanning customers to not practice safe exposure to UV radiation, in other words, frequently over-exposing themselves. This is a another reason as to why I think that skin cancer is more common amongst Caucasians. I also thought it was interesting that although some types of skin cancer are far more common in whites, other types have almost no discernible differences. Also, it’s possible of other racial groups with a darker pigmentation to not recognize skin cancer as readily and let it go unnoticed which would ultimately lead to death, even though it could have been treated. This is due to several factors the first of which is a much lower use of sunscreen amongst non-Caucasian populations due to not thinking they are able to contract sunburns. Another factor is other racial groups may not always recognize the warning signs of skin cancer due to a darker skin pigmentation. In my opinion, no matter the race, every one should actively apply and re-apply sun screen and regularly get screened for skin cancer. It is important to expose yourself to the sun in moderation and do not over-expose.

Genetics, race, and health are essential in this issue and other illness and disease related situations. Traits evolve and become a part of our genetics in many situations. The videos and papers on sickle cell disease are great examples of that. Sickle cell is much more common genetically in some people due to natural selection where there was a need for sickle cell disease to combat malaria which made it much more prevalent. This sickle cell prevalence is also narrowed down to a certain part of the world affecting a certain race. The same argument can be made for health among races that have a greater amount of wealth. Wealth is not evenly distributed across all racial groups leading to some groups have more wealth and therefore, they have greater health due to the resources they have access to. Overall, I believe that the predisposition of illnesses and diseases is ultimately due to our genetics moreso than because of our race.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Skin Cancer Rates by Race and Ethnicity.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/statistics/race.htm (accessed July 10, 2014).

This Post Has 1 Comment

  1. Amber Roberts says:

    I agree with Ashley that the predisposition of illnesses and diseases is ultimately due to genetics than due to race. However, I think that she could have gone into more detail about why. In the lectures we learned that race is not a biological category and is only based on how an individual identifies him or herself. This has no biological basis, and is generally determined by skin color, but can also be influenced by cultural, or socioeconomic factors. Genetics however, encompasses our genetic code and the variation in genes that make us unique from one another. These variations in genes are what protect us or predispose us to certain diseases or mutations. Therefore, we can see that there is a direct relationship between genetics and health, but not between race and health since race is so subjective.

    I do not think that racial categories are very useful in clinical studies because there is no biological basis. Often people identify with a race because of their skin color, but that does not mean that everyone who identifies with that race has the same genetic make up. Also, environmental and cultural factors are important when looking at clinical studies. For example, a study in a poor neighborhood may find that African Americans are likely to experience heart failure, but this could be due to the lack of resources, including good nutrition and health care. While in another nicer neighborhood, another study might find that African Americans have no increased chance of experiencing heart failure. It’s important to consider other factors such as socioeconomic status and access to resources, which may be more relevant to clinical findings than just looking at ones race.

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