Getting to Know More About the Skin and Skin Cancer

The skin is the largest organ in the human body. However, even with its huge size, we often neglect to care for the skin. Are you aware that the skin performs very important roles? Let’s get to know more about the skin and the disease called skin cancer.

Functions of the Skin

So what are the functions of the skin? You may not know it but the skin actually protects us from injury as well as infection. It is also responsible for regulating our body temperature so that we don’t get too hot and we don’t freeze to death. Another important role of the skin is controlling fluid loss which avoids us from getting dehydrated. The skin has sweat glands which releases waste substances.

The Three Layers of Skin

The skin has three main layers. Epidermis is what we call the outer layer. This is the skin that is visible to our naked eye. The layer underneath it is called as the dermis. The third layer is called the subcutaneous fat which is made up of fatty tissue.

Squamous cells fill up most of the outer layer of the skin. Basal cells are found at the base of these squamous cells. Melanocytes are located in between the basal cells. The melanocytes produce melanin, which is the pigment responsible for giving the skin its color. The lesser amount of melanin you have, the lighter your skin tone is and of course the more melanin you have, the darker your skin color or tone is.

Melanin and Its Important Role
Melanin plays an important role. It actually absorbs UV light therefore keeping us protected from the harmful effects of UV rays. UV rays damage the skin cells and promote the development of skin cancer. It is however important to note that melanin does not completely shield all UV rays since doing so would deny our body Vitamin D. Shortwave UV rays need to penetrate the skin to produce this nutrient. An estimated 90% of Vitamin D is formed in the skin. A lack in Vitamin D can lead to serious health problems including heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis and even cancer.

Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most serious skin disorder with melanoma being the most serious type. There are 3 major types or  3 most common types of skin cancer. These are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. The first two are referred to as non-melanoma. Let us find out more about these 3.

3 Major Types of Skin Cancer

  1. Basal cell carcinoma – As the name suggests, basal cell carcinoma starts in the basal cells. Many experts agree that this is the least serious type of skin cancer since it grows very slowly and it does not spread to other organs. Basal cell carcinoma usually develops in areas of the skin that are most exposed to UV light.
  2. Squamous cell carcinoma – This develops first in the epidermis. It is more serious than basal cell carcinoma since it can spread to other organs. When caught and treated early, the chances of a cure is high. Squamous cell carcinoma most commonly develops in areas of the skin exposed to the sun the most.
  3. Melanoma – This is the most serious type of skin cancer. It develops in the melanocytes and can appear in any part of the skin but mostly found on parts of the body that are not exposed to the sun frequently. Melanoma can lead to death and actually is responsible for most of the deaths due to skin cancer.

With proper skin care and sun protection practices you can prevent skin cancer and keep the skin healthy.

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