New Mexico Supercomputing Challenge

Preventing Skin Cancer--It May Be Too Late!

Team: 79

School: Mountain Elementary

Area of Science: Medicine and Health


Problem Definition
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), skin cancer is more common than any other type of cancer, and the trend has been increasing for 30 years. The ACS expected over 2,000,000 cases of skin cancer in 2011, as well as 70,000 cases of melanoma.
Skin cancer damages skin and other tissues and organs, sometimes causing death. Excessive exposure to the sun and other light has led to skin cancer. Sunscreen helps protect skin from damage due to light exposure. We think it is important that we have greater awareness of the risks and effects of skin cancer and ways to prevent it. We will investigate and model the effects that sunscreen and skin pigmentation have on your chances of getting skin cancer.

Problem Solution
Our project will model skin damage as light exposure increases. We will also model the effect sunscreen has on skin that is subject to the same light exposure. The skin parameter of absorption will be adjusted according to popular sunscreen sun protection factors (SPF). The skin will turn pink to red to black and grow in diameter as the number of photons increases, indicating increasing skin damage from none to sunburn to cancer or life threatening health effects. Then we will evaluate the effectiveness of sunscreen, whether the benefits are worth the cost, and whether there is an alternative to sunscreen that is as good or better at preventing skin cancer. We plan to model this problem by using StarLogo TNG. We will model skin types that differ in the amount of melanin.

Progress to Date
SpaceLand in StarLogo has been set up and the skin cells are being created. The sun has been modeled as a sphere and the skin has been constructed as a 30 X 30 matrix of epidermal skin cells. Using the Hatch command in the program, photons will radiate from the sun to the skin. As the skin absorbs the energy from the sun, it will cause sunburn, blistering, and possible progression to skin cancer. We will also model how the skin will absorb less energy when protected by sunscreen.

Expected Results
With the use of sunscreen, we expect the skin to absorb less energy. Modeling the effects of sunscreen application in blocking or absorbing photon energy may therefore show diminished skin damage and extended life and health. With sunscreen, we expect the skin to absorb less energy and slow the progression of skin damage. We hope that people will be more aware of the beneficial effects of using sunscreen.

Sources of information:
Los Alamos National Laboratory, Dr. Rashi Iyer, Skin Cancer PowerPoint Presentation
American Cancer Society,
Canada's National Center for Occupational Health and Safety,Skin,
Sunscreen -Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia,
Light-Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia,

Team Members:

  Summer Bronson
  Zoe Mathis
  Christian Orehek
  Nora Cullinan

Sponsoring Teacher: Zeynep Unal

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