From The National Cancer Institute

Faces of Cancer

Lab activity

Objectives: After completing this activity, students will

Cancer is a group of diseases that  are characterized by uncontrolled cell division. The uncontrolled division can compromise the function of an organism and ultimately may cause its death.

Each of us has a chance of developing cancer sometime in our life. On average, in the United States, men have a 1 in 2 lifetime risk of developing cancer and women a 1 in 3 risk. Many Americans, however, have a higher then average chance of developing particular forms of cancer. For example, smokers have a 10-fold higher risk of developing lung cancer compared with nonsmokers. Likewise, women who have a mother, sister, or daughter who ha head breast cancer have about a 2-fold higher chance of developing breast cancer compared with women who do not have such a family history.

In this activity students will participate in a role play based on the relative incidence of various types of cancer in the U.S. population for a recent year. As part of the role play, each student receives information about one person who develops cancer. Students work in groups, discussing the relevant events of each person's life; as a class, they assemble data about the population as a whole. Students examine the data the class assembles and draws a set of important generalizations about cancer from them.


  1. Each student will be assigned one person from the the list below to use in the role play activity (print your profile out for class).

Margaret Alexander Sami Khalafa Marcy Sterling Eleanor Hartman Angela Seader
Elizabeth Gries Sharon Washington Mario Devencenzi Rosemarie Winters Avi Rothstein
Sam Major Shaun O'Malley Maria Delgano Frank Trueblood Brian Eaken
Leon Sanchez Shawna Thomas Marik Harris Jonah Wexler Calrence Robinson
Ed Manning Shirlene Hvinden Mary Snyder Kathy Becker Carlos Montano
Si Conners Paul Ashland Lelia Johnson Cherisse Nicholson Christopher Bartling


  1. Each group of 4 students will need one "Team Summary" Data Sheet. This will be completed within the group. Each member of the group introduces their character one at a time recording any data given. Next group members take turns reading one at a time the subsequent age histories starting with 0-19 years of age. Record any data given during this time on the team summary data sheet.


  1. Each student will need one "Class Summary Profile" data Sheet in order to collect the activities results from all groups. Use this data sheet to gather cancer information for all groups, this will usually be done as a whole class activity.


  1. After completing the, Team Summary and participating in the Class Summary Profile you are ready to complete the final part of this activity. Read and answer these questions from the "Drawing Conclusion from the Faces of Cancer" sheet.