Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer worldwide. Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer incidence in the world.
Anatomy of the Skin
The skin is the largest organ in the human body. It protects the body from heat, injury, infection, and the ultraviolet rays of the sun. It also generates vitamin D, stores water and fat, and controls body heat.
There are two main layers of the skin: the epidermis and the dermis. The epidermis is the top layer of the skin, and is mostly made of flat cells called squamous cells. Below the squamous cells and at the bottom of the epidermis are round cells called basal cells. In the deeper layer of the epidermis, scattered among the basal cells, are cells called melanocytes. These cells produce a pigment called melanin that gives dark colour to the skin when exposed to sunlight.
Under the epidermis lies the dermis. The dermis contains many structures, including blood vessels, lymph vessels, and glands.
Cancers of the Skin
There are three main types of skin cancer:
• squamous cell cancer (SCC): a cancer that develops from the squamous cells of the skin
• basal cell cancer (BCC): a cancer that develops from the basal cells of skin
• melanoma: a cancer that develops from melanocytes
Squamous cell and basal cell cancers are also called non-melanoma cancers of the skin.
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