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Skin Facts

Our Skin

Skin performs a variety of functions:

  • A protective barrier eg. against physical injury and penetration of Ultraviolet (UV) radiation
  • Immune function
  • Prevents loss of body fluids
  • Controls body temperature
  • Plays a role in metabolism eg. getting rid of waste products through sweating
  • A role in Vitamin D production
  • Acting as a sensory organ and giving us a gripping surface

If the barrier function of skin is compromised it can have serious consequences eg. severe burns can cause fluid loss and dehydration and increase the risk of severe infection.

The skin is divided into 3 main layers:

Epidermis – This acts as protective barrier

Dermis – Gives structural support to the epidermis and is composed mainly of specialised proteins called Collagens

Subcutaneous Layer – This is mainly fat and can be quite thick in certain areas of the body eg. Stomach area

Most authorities are of the opinion that sun exposure is the main cause of skin cancers and that UV radiation from the sun damages the genetic make-up of skin cells, this leads to skin cancer.

It is estimated that heavy sun exposure causes at least two thirds of all malignant melanomas and up to 90% of all non-melanoma skin cancers (NMSCs)

Therefore, it makes sense that skin must be protected against too much UV radiation.  Certain individuals have a higher risk of developing skin cancer, this occurs especially in those with fair skin that burn easily.


Gawkrodger,DJ, Dermatology an illustrated colour text 3rd ed. 2002 Page2. ARC, Solar and ultraviolet radiation. Monographs on the evalutation of carcinogenic risks to humans. 1992, Lyon: IARCPress. Gilchrest, B., et al., The pathogenesis of melanoma induced by ultraviolet radiation. N Engl J Med, 1999. 340: p. 1341-8.

Read the facts about sunburn