Ref: CHB/News Bulletin /007/2013         

Skin - more than a covering

sk1The skin is the largest part of us, the largest organ we have, its surface being about 2m2, and it acts as a physical barrier.

On the one hand it prevents undesirable elements getting into the body, whilst on the other it keeps in essential elements, like water. It therefore plays the role of interface between ourselves and the rest of the world, being our 'visible' part. It is very important for our morale and our well-being, which is why it must remain healthy and good-looking. In fact a good-looking skin makes us more confident and plays an important part in our self esteem.  Don't we say "You're looking good"?

Skin acts as a waterproof, insulating shield, guarding the body against extremes of temperature, damaging sunlight, and harmful chemicals. It also exudes antibacterial substances that prevent infection and manufactures vitamin D for converting calcium into healthy bones. Skin additionally is a huge sensor packed with nerves for keeping the brain in touch with the outside world - sensations of touch, heat, and cold. At the same time, skin allows us free movement, proving itself an amazingly versatile organ.

Though you can't see it happening, every minute of the day we lose about 30,000 to 40,000 dead skin cells off the surface of our skin. That's almost 4 kilograms of cells every year!

Skin Cancer

sk2Skin cancer is the most common of all human cancers, with 1 million people in the U.S. diagnosed each year with some type of the disease.

Cancer occurs when normal cells undergo a transformation and grow and multiply without normal controls. There are three major types of skin cancers: basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma. The first two skin cancers are grouped together as non-melanoma skin cancers. Like many cancers, skin cancers start as precancerous lesions. These precancerous lesions are changes in skin that are not cancer, but could become cancer over time.

Skin cancer can be found early, and both doctors and patients play important roles in finding skin cancer. If you have any of the following symptoms, tell your doctor.

  • Any change on your skin, especially in the size or color of a mole, growth, or spot, or a new growth (even if it has no color)
  • Scaliness, oozing, bleeding, or a change in the way a bump or nodule looks
  • The spread of pigmentation (color) beyond its border, such as dark coloring that spreads past the edge of a mole or mark
  • A change in sensation, such as itchiness, tenderness, or pain

The best ways to lower the risk of skin cancer are to avoid long exposure to intense sunlight and practice sun safety. You can still exercise and enjoy the outdoors while using sun safety at the same time. Here are some ways to be sun safe:

  • Avoid direct exposure to the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Teach children the shadow rule: if your shadow is shorter than you, the sun's rays are at their strongest.
  • Seek shade, especially in the middle of the day when the sun's rays are strongest.
  • Slip on a shirt: Cover up with protective clothing to guard as much skin as possible when you are out in the sun. Choose comfortable clothes made of tightly woven fabrics that you cannot see through when held up to a light.
  • sk3Slop on sunscreen: Use sunscreen and lip balm with broad spectrum protection and a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. Apply a generous amount of sunscreen (about a palmful) to unprotected skin at least 30 minutes before outdoor activities. Reapply every 2 hours and after swimming, toweling dry, or sweating.
  • Sunscreen doesn't protect from all UV rays, so don't use sunscreen as a way to stay out in the sun longer.
  • Avoid other sources of UV light. Tanning beds and sun lamps are dangerous. They also damage your skin.

Skin care: 5 tips for healthy skin

sk4Don't have time for intensive skin care? Pamper yourself with the basics. Good skin care and healthy lifestyle choices can help delay the natural aging process and prevent various skin problems. Get started with these five no-nonsense tips.

  1. Protect yourself from the sun and treat your skin gently
  2. sk5Eat a healthy diet- A healthy diet can help you look and feel your best. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins.
  3. Don't smoke - Smoking makes your skin look older and contributes to wrinkles. Smoking narrows the tiny blood vessels in the outermost layers of skin, which decreases blood flow. This depletes the skin of oxygen and nutrients that are important to skin health. Smoking also damages collagen and elastin.
  4. Manage stress - Uncontrolled stress can make your skin more sensitive and trigger acne breakouts and other skin problems.
  • Limit bath time. Hot water and long showers or baths remove oils from your skin, use warm — rather than hot — water.
  • Avoid strong soaps. Strong soaps and detergents can strip oil from your skin. Instead, choose mild cleansers.
  • Shave carefully. To protect and lubricate your skin, apply shaving cream, lotion or gel before shaving.
  • Pat dry. After washing or bathing, gently pat or blot your skin dry with a towel so that some moisture remains on your skin.
  • Moisturize dry skin. If your skin is dry, use a moisturizer that fits your skin type. For daily use, consider a moisturizer that contains SPF.

Medical breakthrough – creating stem cells from skin

Scientists at the Oregon Health & Science University and the Oregon National Primate Research Centre on Wednesday announced in a joint press release that they had succeeded in "[reprogramming] human skin cells to become embryonic stem cells capable of transforming into any other cell type in the body".

This is an important step in research because it does not require the use of embryos in creating the type of stem and not being rejected, a technique that raises major ethical issues because the embryo is destroyed

"While there is much work to be done in developing safe and effective stem cell treatments, we believe this is a significant step forward in developing the cells that could be used in regenerative medicine," says lead researcher Shoukhrat Mitalipov said. The method would not likely be able to create human clones, he added.



Compiled by Neelam A. Ismail

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