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Activity 5  - Acting on Information About Cancer

Figure 18 - Reasons to support or oppose the statute.
To Support the Statute To Oppose the Statute
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States.

Protection of the type described likely would reduce the incidence of UV damage that can lead to the development of skin cancer.

The incidence of melanoma in the United States has more than doubled in 20 years.

Skin cancer carries costs for individuals and society. Potential costs include emotional costs, costs associated with the loss of productivity, insurance costs, direct costs for treatment, and costs associated with the loss of life.

As the ozone layer continues to deteriorate, the chance of experiencing harmful UV exposure increases. Although most types of skin cancer are easily detected and cured, melanoma is less easily detected in people with heavily pigmented skin and can lead to serious consequences and even death.
The statute unreasonably reduces personal freedom and may even create undue hardship.

Although the statute applies to everyone, the risk of skin cancer is not equal for everyone.

It is not clear who would enforce the law or what the penalties would be.

It is not clear who is responsible for making sure that individuals under the age of 18 comply with the law.

There are other ways to reduce the incidence of skin cancer.

Skin cancer is easily detected and cured; the money that would be spent to enforce this statute might be better spent on widespread screening programs to detect skin cancer as early as possible.

Instruct students to continue filling in the table on Getting Prepared as each team presents its position. In this way, each student develops a list of reasons for and against the statute that he or she can compare prior to the class vote (Step 8).

If a team has no new reasons among its "strongest reasons" to add to the discussion, allow it to add other reasons that have not yet been presented.

7. When it appears that students have made all the points they are prepared to make, announce that discussion on the issue is about to close. Give students 2 minutes to organize their thoughts and ask questions about any issues that they need clarified.

8. Designate one corner of the classroom as the area for opponents of the statute to assemble, and another corner for proponents of the statute to assemble. Ask students to vote by taking a position in the corner that reflects their position on the statute.

This "cornering" technique, more dramatic than voting by a show of hands, is a powerful strategy for helping students learn to take a public position on a controversial topic.

assessmentLook for evidence that students understand the importance of balancing the need for protection against the value of autonomy in personal decision making. Expect students to recognize that understanding the causes of cancer helps people make decisions about a variety of cancer-related activities, from prevention to reducing risk to detection and treatment.

9. Record the results of the class vote on the board.

10. Ask the original teams to reconvene to develop written answers to the questions on Master 5.3, Analyzing the Results of a Public Policy Discussion.

Give the teams approximately 5 minutes for this task.

11. Close the activity by inviting responses to the questions on Analyzing the Results.

Question 1 What revisions, if any, would you make to the statute in the light of the reasons you heard?

Answers will vary. Some students may suggest that the percentage covered be reduced to make compliance less onerous and, in cases such as lifeguards, safer. Other students may suggest that certain locations, such as beaches, and certain activities, such as those that require unrestricted movement to be safe, be made exempt from the law. Still others may propose that the law apply only to people located within certain bands of latitude and/or at certain elevations.

If students have difficulty suggesting reasonable changes, you may wish to ask them questions such as, "Is there any way this law could be changed to make it acceptable to you?" or "Can the statute be modified to reduce or eliminate some of its disadvantages while keeping its important benefits?"

Question 2 What other suggestions can you make about reducing the incidence and impact of skin cancer in the United States?

Encourage students to think creatively here and to employ all they have learned as a result of completing the activities in this module. You may wish to point out that if they are unhappy with the proposed statute, a positive approach to defeating the measure would be to propose alternate courses of action that would have equal or greater benefits at lower cost. Students may suggest aggressive educational campaigns to alert the public, including children, to the dangers of UV exposure. They also may suggest research to develop more effective sunscreens or materials for canopies at playgrounds and beaches that let warmth and light through but block harmful UV radiation. Other possible suggestions include making annual skin cancer screening mandatory for adults over a certain age, research to develop less expensive and more effective treatment for all types of skin cancer, and even more aggressive research and policy making directed at slowing or reversing the loss of the earth's ozone layer, which is becoming an increasingly important factor in UV exposure in certain parts of the world.

puzzle pieceQuestions 3 and 4 on Analyzing the Results focus students' attention on the activity's major concepts.

Question 3 How does this activity illustrate that

People have many choices available to them that can significantly reduce their chances of developing skin cancer and even can increase their chances of surviving should they develop it. Some of these choices include avoiding being outdoors during hours of peak UV exposure, wearing sunscreen and protective clothing when outdoors at all, practicing regular self-examination to detect unusual changes in the skin, and seeking immediate medical care if any such changes occur.

This activity illustrates the tension between trying to preserve the value of personal and public health and well-being and the value of individual autonomy.

Students should recognize that the requirement to research their assigned position, provide evidence to support their claims, and offer their ideas in a structured manner helped them discuss this issue in a rich and meaningful way. Some students may say that the discussion did not change how they voted, but most students should recognize that they have a much better understanding of the issues involved as a result of their participation.

Question 4 How has research about cancer helped improve personal and public health in the United States? Answer specifically, using examples drawn from all five of the activities in this module.

Answers will vary.

Potential Extensions

Extend or enrich this activity in the following ways.

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