14-year-old emerges US Young Scientist award with cancer treatment soap

A middle school teen, Heman Bekele, has emerged as  ‘top young scientist’ after inventing a bar of soap that can cure melanoma, a type of skin cancer.

The 14-year-old ninth-grade Annandale, Virginia, won the award after beating nine other contestants.

He won $25,000 in 3M’s 2023 Young Scientist Challenge, for inventing a bar of soap that could be used to treat skin cancer, USA Today revealed.

With the prize funds, Bekele plans to move his soap invention through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval process.

He said he wished to introduce his product to the market as an affordable treatment option for a disease that kills nearly 8,000 Americans a year.

According to him, “Curing cancer, one bar of soap at a time. I have always been interested in biology and technology, and this challenge gave me the perfect platform to showcase my ideas.”

His ambitions, he disclosed, is to expand his work in the nonprofit space to help as many people as possible, adding that his future plans also involve looking forward to moving from just focusing on cancer to topics like DNA and electrical engineering.

“I’m looking for new fields to start learning more about because I’ve almost checked off oncology on my list,” he said.

Revealing his idea, the soap was made from compounds that could reactivate dendritic cells that guard human skin, enabling them to fight cancer cells.

Melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer, is diagnosed in about 100,000 people in the United States each year and has killed approximately 8,000.

According to Mayo Clinic, an online health portal, melanoma develops in the cells (melanocytes) that produce melanin, which is the pigment that gives the skin its colour, adding that it can also form in the eyes and, rarely, inside the body, such as in the nose or throat.

On the cause, it stated, “The exact cause of all melanomas isn’t clear, but exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight or tanning lamps and beds increases your risk of developing melanoma. Limiting your exposure to UV radiation can help reduce your risk of melanoma.

“The risk of melanoma seems to be increasing in people under 40, especially women. Knowing the warning signs of skin cancer can help ensure that cancerous changes are detected and treated before the cancer has spread. Melanoma can be treated successfully if it is detected early.”


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