Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in this country. About one million Americans develop skin cancer each year.
The skin is the body’s largest organ. It protects against heat, light, injury, and infection. It helps control body temperature. It stores water and fat. The skin also makes vitamin D.
The skin has two main layers
Epidermis: The epidermis is the top layer of the skin. It is mostly made of flat cells. These are squamous cells. Under the squamous cells in the deepest part of the epidermis are round cells called basal cells. Cells called melanocytes make the pigment (color) found in skin and are located in the lower part of the epidermis.
Dermis: The dermis is under the epidermis. It contains blood vessels, lymph vessels, and glands. Some of these glands make sweat, which helps cool the body. Other glands make sebum. Sebum is an oily substance that helps keep the skin from drying out. Sweat and sebum reach the surface of the skin through tiny openings called pores.
How Skin Cancer Develops
Skin cancer begins in cells, the building blocks that make up the skin. Normally, skin cells grow and divide to form new cells. Every day skin cells grow old and die, and new cells take their place.
Sometimes, this orderly process goes wrong. New cells form when the skin does not need them, and old cells do not die when they should. These extra cells can form a mass of tissue called a growth or tumor.