The skin is not only the largest organ in the body with approximately 20 square feet of surface area, but also a mirror of our health. Our skin is the first barrier protecting us from pathogens and pollutants. It has a critical role in regulation of body temperature and elimination of many metabolic waste products. The appearance of our skin can tell us about excessive exposure to sunlight or environmental pollutants. It reflects whether we have had too much stress, a lack of sleep, are dehydrated or have consumed too much caffeine, sugar, alcohol, or cigarette smoke. The skin can indicate problems with the digestive, cardiovascular, and nervous systems functions, as well as hormonal imbalances and inflammatory conditions. Most of us are concerned with skin appearance for cosmetic reasons but some skin problems including oily or dry skin, acne, wrinkles, or age spots are indicative of poor health of the skin and internal organs.
Good health starts with knowledge and if we want to take good care of our skin it is important to know more about this organ. The skin is composed of three main layers. The epidermis, the outermost layer, contains keratin and melanin to strengthen and protect us from harsh sun rays. The dermis, the second layer, is enriched with blood vessels, nerves, and collagen fibers essential for skin nourishment, oxygenation, and firmness and elasticity. The bottom layer, the hypodermis, contains fat cells to maintain body temperature. The epidermal layer does not contain blood vessels and therefore it relies on nutrients supplied from the dermis. Yet wrinkles, age spots and other unwanted changes are first visible in the epidermis. This tells us that in addition to oral supplementation, the topical application of nutrients is an effective way to directly supply nutrients to this layer of skin.
The firmness and elasticity of the skin depends on its main components - collagen and elastin. Therefore, reduced production of and increased destruction of collagen and elastin accelerate the symptoms of aging. Healthy skin also needs optimum production of glycosaminoglycans and hyaluronic acid present in the ground substance that binds the dermal and epidermal cells in the skin. Low hyaluronic acid content impairs skin hydration, its structure and elasticity, and the ability to repair itself. Age-related decrease in growth hormone production is reflected by dull skin because of the decreased production of new skin cells and the accumulation of dead cells on the skin layers. This also increases melanin pigmentation which accumulates in small pockets on the skin appearing as brown patches or “sunspots.” These “age spots” can also be promoted by deficiency of micronutrients such as vitamins C and E, and the amino acids proline, lysine and arginine.
We can support our skin in a natural way. Vitamin C together with lysine and proline are essential for producing healthy collagen, and together with vitamin E can reduce free radical damage. Vitamin C itself helps to reduce oxidative stress, improve the skin damage caused by UV rays and inflammation, and decrease the risk of melanoma. Moreover, topical application of vitamin C can strengthen the skin immune barrier and has an antihistamine effect which helps to reduce itching and other complaints of allergic skin conditions. Research shows that the skin responds well to topical application of certain nutrients. These include jojoba oil, aloe vera, geranium, and dandelion extracts, and others that nourish the skin and have antioxidant properties making it appear youthful and healthy. While a healthy diet is critical for healthy skin, the topical application of specific natural compounds may provide extra support for a healthier and younger looking skin.
With the arrival of summer, people become acutely aware of exposure to the sun, the risk of skin cancers and the importance of the use of sunscreen. Skin cancer is the most common of all types of cancers in the USA and other developed countries. Worldwide, it accounts for more than 30% of all diagnosed cancers. Basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma are the most common forms of skin cancers, and malignant melanoma is the most dangerous of all of them. According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 96,480 new melanoma cases are expected to be diagnosed in 2019 and melanoma will be attributed as a cause of death for 7,230 people. It is estimated that one in five people will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.
Hemangiomas are the most common birth defect involving malformations of blood vessels leading to benign tumors in infants and children. Approximately 4-10% of infants are born with at least one hemangioma. A recent increase in the incidence of hemangiomas in the United States is found to be linked with the increase in the frequency of low birth weight infants. More frequently seen in Caucasians than African Americans or Asians, the hemangiomas are five times more common in females than males.
Healthy skin is the first barrier to prevent any wounds and it is the crucial component in would repair. The skin is the largest organ in the body and it is a mirror of the health of the body’s internal organs. In addition to protection of inner tissue structures, the skin helps in regulation of body temperature and elimination of metabolic waste products.
It is estimated that 6.5 million people in the US struggle with slow wound healing because of various reasons which include diabetes, obesity, and long-term disability such as stroke, spinal cord injury, and multiple sclerosis.
In the last issue of our Health Science News Page we discussed aspects of skin cancer and the damage caused by excessive sun exposure. The most common risk factor of non-melanoma skin cancer is excessive exposure sunlight. However, it is important to note that the non-melanoma skin cancers, basal and squamous cell carcinomas are not as lethal as melanoma which can also occur on areas of the skin not exposed to the sun. Sun exposure can cause free radical damage in the skin cells leading to DNA damage and skin ageing, and may eventually cause skin cancer, however, that is not the only risk factor.
With the arrival of summer people become acutely aware of sun exposure, skin cancers and the use of sunscreen. Worldwide, one in three diagnosed cancers is classified under skin cancer. Basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma are the most common forms of skin cancers, and malignant melanoma is the most fatal.
According to the American Cancer Society, it is estimated that nearly 9,500 people in the US are diagnosed with skin cancer every day and 161,790 new cases of melanoma are estimated to be diagnosed in the US in 2017. Males over 50 and women younger than 50 are reported to have an increased risk of developing melanoma. In fact, melanoma is the second most common form of cancer in women between the ages of 15-29. The annual cost for treating melanoma has grown faster than the annual treatment costs for all other cancers combined.
Sarcoma is a cancerous growth developing in the cells of the connective tissue. Primary cancers that develop in the soft connective tissues such as in the muscles, nerves, blood vessels, and fat cells, are called soft tissue sarcomas, versus osseous sarcomas, which develop in hard connective tissue such as in the bones and cartilage. Connective tissue is abundantly present everywhere in the body, and therefore soft tissue sarcomas can occur anywhere. However, the most common locations for soft tissue sarcomas are in the arms and legs, followed by the organs in the abdominal cavity. While it is a rare type of cancer and constitutes about 1% of all adult cancers, the American Cancer Society estimates that in 2015, approximately 12,000 adults will be newly diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma, and 4,870 adults may die due to this disease.
Skin cancer is the most common of all types of cancers. While melanoma is the most feared skin cancer, non-melanoma skin cancers are far more common. The American Cancer Society estimates 73,000 Americans will be diagnosed with melanoma in 2015; however, there will be 3.5 million new cases of non-melanoma cancers.
The skin is not only the largest organ in the body, it is also a mirror of the health of the body’s internal organs. In addition to protection of inner tissue structures, the skin helps in regulation of body temperature and elimination of metabolic waste products. Many diseases of the digestive, cardiovascular, and nervous systems, and hormonal imbalances and inflammatory conditions are reflected on the skin. With approximately 20 square feet of surface area, the skin is primarily taken care of for cosmetic appeal. Thousands of skin care products cater to beauty and health conscious consumers who hope to avoid acne, discoloration and signs of aging, as well as skin cancer. It is estimated that the global skin care products industry revenue will be $102.3 billion by 2018.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune, chronic inflammatory skin disease characterized by thickened, red skin with silvery scaled patches. These patches typically occur on the scalp, elbows, knees, and lower back. Although the exact cause of psoriasis is not clear, it is not a contagious disease. Psoriasis affects 2-3% of the world’s population, and men and women between the ages of 15 and 45 are equally affected.