The first thing I learned from this activity was the names of different types of cancer. The type of cancer that was on my card was melanoma, a type I was familiar with, but some members of my group had cancers that I had never heard of before; glioma, which is cancer of the brain or spine, for instance. Another thing I learned through group discussion and comparison was that the number of genes that contribute to cancer varies among the types of cancers. The number ranged from two to six, and that was only for the five people in my group; throughout the class, the variation could have been even greater. Lastly, I learned that fewer genes that deal with genome maintenance, when affected, tend to cause cancer, compared to genes that deal with cell survival or fate.
While I was interested in all that I learned from this activity, some things stood out over others, especially what I found while researching melanoma. A recent article described an algorithm that requires only a photo of your skin to determine whether you should have a biopsy or not, which was developed by a team from Stanford. I was surprised to discover that this kind of advanced technology exists, and interested to see how it could be used in the future to help people. I was also interested to learn, through a classmate's research, that men are actually more susceptible to skin cancer because of one gene located on chromosome X. At first I was confused; I know that women have two X chromosomes, and men have one X and one Y, so I thought that women would be more susceptible. However, I learned that women's second copy of the gene is almost like insurance, providing a backup if the first is mutated.
Naturally, questions occurred to me along with this newfound knowledge. Although my group and I spotted certain patterns among the cancer types and cancer patients, I wonder if established patterns exist. Have scientists found evidence through data analysis that there is a pattern to how types and locations of genes play into the development of cancer?