Healthy Skin Facts and Awareness

Healthy Skin Facts and Awareness

By: Dr. Animesh Sinha, Chief of Dermatology, WNY Medical PC

Did you know that your skin is the largest organ of the human body? Skin, hair, nails, sweat, and oil glands make up what we know as the integumentary system. Throughout history, it was thought that our skin existed to primarily guard against mechanical injuries. However, our understanding of skin functions has evolved significantly in recent years. We now have a much more comprehensive awareness of the complexity of the integumentary system. While a barrier function of the skin for protection against outside elements such as pathogens, chemicals/ toxins and temperature fluctuations remain key, other important functions of the skin are now appreciated, including temperature regulation, biosynthesis of key molecules, and the skin’s role in personal identity. Moreover, the skin houses a robust and an at-the-ready immune system, poised to enhance its protective functions in battling bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites and other pathogens.

Many factors can impact the function and appearance of the skin. Smoking, alcohol use, and excessive UV exposure can contribute to wrinkles, sunspots, and general uneven thickening or thinning of the skin, and impede normal immune and biochemical activities in the skin. There are a vast number of primary diseases of the skin, including those associated with genetic disorders, infections, allergies, injuries, autoimmune conditions, and various benign as well as malignant tumors. Additionally, several important systemic diseases such as diabetes, lupus, internal cancers, among other disease states manifest with characteristic skin lesions.

Proper skin care and sun protection are very important to overall health, to prevent or reduce the occurrence of various skin conditions. Annual full body skin exams in particular are critical for the early detection and treatment of skin cancers, which continue to rise in incidence.

One in five Americans will develop skin cancer during their lifetime. Thankfully, many forms of skin cancer are highly curable when caught early enough. It is important to be aware of your family history, as well as your own past medical history, when speaking with your dermatologist. You can be at increased risk of skin cancer if you have a family history of melanoma, fair skin, red or blonde hair, light eyes, a history of excessive UV radiation exposure, unusual moles, or a weakened immune system.

Annual full skin exams involve the observation of skin from head to toe, looking for any unusual rashes, spots, bumps, or moles. As your dermatologist, I take note of any lesions or suspicious areas of your skin and may move forward with further evaluations, such as performing a skin biopsy when needed, along with close monitoring of suspicious lesions longitudinally over time.

Remember to take care of your skin, and visit your dermatologist on a regular basis for any concerns and annual skin checks!

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