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3-2 Melanoma

Just How Fast Is Melanoma Increasing?


You are a student volunteer helping a senator to prepare for a Congressional Committee meeting on public health hazards. You have some information on melanoma in the U.S. including the number of people in the U.S. that have been diagnosed with melanoma, and how many people died from melanoma in each year since 1973.

The senator you are helping wants to educate her colleagues in Congress concerning the facts on melanoma skin cancer. Your job is to figure out how to present the information in the form of a graph so that someone can tell at a glance if the number of melanoma cases and deaths is increasing or decreasing. Prepare a sheet of graph paper with the appropriate scales and labels, so all the information is clear and easy to read.

(Hint: Scientists who study disease patterns commonly use two measures to detect whether a disease is increasing or decreasing:

• incidence: the number of cases diagnosed each year per 100,000 people.

• mortality: the number of individuals who die of a given disease each year per 100,000 people.)

After plotting the data, get together with the rest of the staff to study the evidence and discuss specific statements that the senator might make that would be supported by the evidence.

Melanoma cases in the United States
All Races, Females and Males

Questions to Consider

1) Is the number of melanoma cases each year increasing or decreasing?

2) Is the number of deaths due to melanoma increasing or decreasing?

3) Are the number of cases and the number of deaths changing at the same pace? Is one changing faster than the other?

4) What do these data tell you about melanoma trends in the U.S.?

5) Based on these trends, about how many people do you predict will contract melanoma in 2005? About how many people will die from it?

6) What factors could cause the incidence of the disease to decrease?

7) What factors could cause the incidence of the disease to increase?

8) What percentage of people in the US with melanoma died of it in the years 1975, 1980, 1985, 1990, and 1995?

9) What does this tell you about how treatment and detection of melanoma have changed in the past 15 years?

10) In planning the Senator’s presentation, what additional information would you want to provide about the probable causes of melanoma?

11) What legislation do you think the Senator might want to support based on this information?