W2 Reflection: Skin Cancer Among Caucasians

I identify as a Caucasian female and chose to research the prevalence of skin cancer in Caucasian females. While looking through the Center for Disease Control’s website, I found that they had a useful grid that would divide cancers by a multitude of demographic information, like race, gender, age, etc. Interestingly, finding this information proved to be a challenge. While finding illnesses and diseases that impacted women more than men was a simple find, breaking it down by race was difficult, and I struggled to find information from a reliable source that was dated past 2013. This is most likely due to what the lecture covered this week; the social construction of race and the permutation of this ideology throughout society manifesting in evidence to support racial divisions. The image I’ve attached is a screenshot of the interactive grid from the CDC’s website.

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 9.33.58 PM

The relationship between race, genetics, and health is a complex and difficult subject. Often health is determined by the environment in which people live, their social class, and their access to treatment once they are sick. Differences in illness and disease among different races has more to do with social inequality and the physical manifestations of these inequalities rather than differences in genetic makeup according to race as there is no genetic difference from one race to another. Race is socially constructed and exists as a divider among the population. In lecture number two, the Pima Indians were used as an example of “race” based disease. Their predominance to diabetes has more to do with their ancestors being accustomed to a feast or famine lifestyle and a closed off community with a lack of new genes rather than their race. The assertion that race is a social construct is supported by Clarence Gravlee, who discusses race and health disparities and strives to disprove the connection of the socially constructed race to the health of the population. I found it interesting to learn and examine the deep ingrained racism and divide that has been so prevalent in society and is especially relevant today.

This disparity is likely due to the exposure of ancestors to the sun. Evolution is more of a factor than race. My ancestors, as far back as I can trace them, are Northern European, originating from Finland, Scotland, and Northern France, where sun is not prevalent all year round. Compared geographically to regions closer to the equator, such as Mexico, Africa, and India, where exposure to an abundance of sun and a warmer climate provided a different variation of skin pigmentation (namely Melanin). This allowed for increased protection against sunburn and skin cancer, though it is still possible and a risk.  

“United States Cancer Statistics (USCS).” United States Cancer Statistics. Accessed July 15, 2016. https://nccd.cdc.gov/uscs/cancersbyraceandethnicity.aspx.


One thought on “W2 Reflection: Skin Cancer Among Caucasians

  1. Hello Linsey.
    You did a great job of analyzing this health disparity in your post. I totally agree with your conclusion that the disparity in skin cancer among races is largely affected by evolution and genetics. It absolutely makes sense that one’s ancestors’ country of origin will come into play regarding the amount of melanin an individual expresses. Your thoughts on how race is also affected by socioeconomic status and culture were interesting to think about. The Pima are definitely a good example of how external influences can effect a peoples health. I think obvious observations of racial differences are often beneficial in regards to clinical data, and racial categories often make sense medically, but professional should be wary of becoming close-minded when it comes to generalizations of patients.

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