Skin Cancer

Examination & Treatment

Understanding Your Skin

Your Skin

 

The skin is the largest organ in the body and plays a vital role in our survival. It covers the body, protecting it from injury, regulating its temperature and preventing it from becoming dehydrated.

 

Skin has two main layers of cells called the epidermis and the dermis.

 

Epidermis – the top/outer layer of the skin.

 

It contains two main types of cells: squamous cells and melanocytes. The melanocytes produce melanin, the substance that gives skin its colour (pigment). When skin is exposed to sunlight, the melanocytes produce more melanin and the skin becomes tanned.

 

Dermis – the layer underneath the epidermis.

 

Contains the roots of hairs; sweat glands; blood and lymph vessels; and nerves.  When skin cancer penetrates the dermis it can reach blood and lymph vessels and spread to other parts of the body.

 

 
What is my skin type?
 

Skin types that are more sensitive to ultraviolet (UV) radiation burn more quickly and are at a greater risk of skin cancer.

 

People with naturally very dark skin (usually skin type V or VI) still need to take care in the sun even though they may rarely, if ever, get sunburnt. The larger amount of melanin in very dark skin provides natural protection from UV radiation. This means the risk of skin cancer is lower.

 

Eye damage can occur regardless of skin type. High levels of UV radiation have also been linked to harmful effects on the immune system.

 

People with very dark skin do not normally need to apply sunscreen (but this remains a personal decision) but they should wear hats or sunglasses to protect their eyes.

 

Vitamin D deficiency may be a greater health concern for people with naturally very dark skin, as it is more difficult for people with this skin type to make vitamin D. People with naturally darker skin may require up to three to six times more sun exposure to help with their vitamin D levels.

 

Skin types

               

Type I - Often burns, rarely tans. Tends to have freckles, red or fair hair, blue or green eyes.

 

Type II - Usually burns, sometimes tans. Tends to have light hair, blue or brown eyes.

               

Type III - Sometimes burns, usually tans. Tends to have brown hair and eyes.

               

Type IV - Rarely burns, often tans. Tends to have dark brown eyes and hair.

               

Type V - Dark brown skin. Rarely burns, tans profusely.

               

Type VI - Deeply pigmented, dark brown to black skin. Never burns.

Remember, if you have any concerns or questions, please contact your doctor. Dr Green would be happy to address any questions you may have. You are able to book an appointment at Sydney City Skin Cancer Clinic (via O'Connell St Clinic) by calling 02 9241 1577, or by clicking the "Book Now" button.