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Sun Dangers! (Featured Article)

 

The Skin

 

Your skin protects your body from heat, injury, and infection. It also protects your body from damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation (such as from the sun or sunlamps).

Your skin stores water and fat. It helps control body heat. Also, your skin makes vitamin D.

The picture shows the two main layers of the skin:

    Epidermis: The epidermis is the top layer of your skin. It's mostly made of flat cells called squamous cells.

    Below the squamous cells deeper in the epidermis are round cells called basal cells.

    Cells called melanocytes are scattered among the basal cells. They are in the deepest part of the epidermis. Melanocytes make the pigment (color) found in skin. When skin is exposed to UV radiation, melanocytes make more pigment, causing the skin to darken, or tan.
    Dermis: The dermis is the layer under the epidermis. The dermis contains many types of cells and structures, such as blood vessels, lymph vessels, and glands. Some of these glands make sweat, which helps cool your body. Other glands make sebum. Sebum is an oily substance that helps keep your skin from drying out. Sweat and sebum reach the surface of your skin through tiny openings called pores.

    Skin cancers are named for the type of cells that become malignant (cancer). The three most common types are:

      Melanoma: Melanoma begins in melanocytes (pigment cells). Most melanocytes are in the skin.

      Melanoma can occur on any skin surface. In men, it's often found on the skin on the head, on the neck, or between the shoulders and the hips. In women, it's often found on the skin on the lower legs or between the shoulders and the hips.

      Melanoma is rare in people with dark skin. When it does develop in people with dark skin, it's usually found under the fingernails, under the toenails, on the palms of the hands, or on the soles of the feet.
        Basal cell skin cancer: Basal cell skin cancer begins in the basal cell layer of the skin. It usually occurs in places that have been in the sun. For example, the face is the most common place to find basal cell skin cancer.

        In people with fair skin, basal cell skin cancer is the most common type of skin cancer.

          Squamous cell skin cancer: Squamous cell skin cancer begins in squamous cells. In people with dark skin, squamous cell skin cancer is the most common type of skin cancer, and it's usually found in places that are not in the sun, such as the legs or feet.

          However, in people with fair skin, squamous cell skin cancer usually occurs on parts of the skin that have been in the sun, such as the head, face, ears, and neck.

          Unlike moles, skin cancer can invade the normal tissue nearby. Also, skin cancer can spread throughout the body. Melanoma is more likely than other skin cancers to spread to other parts of the body. Squamous cell skin cancer sometimes spreads to other parts of the body, but basal cell skin cancer rarely does.

          When skin cancer cells do spread, they break away from the original growth and enter blood vessels or lymph vessels. The cancer cells may be found in nearby lymph nodes. The cancer cells can also spread to other tissues and attach there to form new tumors that may damage those tissues.