Skin Cancer

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Tanning, moles and freckles, how the skin defends itself

The skin is the body’s outer protective cover. It is made up of three layers, epidermis, dermis and fat. The outer layer is called the epidermis.

The skin defends itself from UV radiation by thickening the outer epidermis, keratin layer. The living cells produced by the lower levels of the epidermis are slowly pushed to the surface. When they reach the surface the cells have become harder and drier and contain keratin, which helps protect us from heat and cold.

The epidermis also contains specialist cells called melanocytes. These produce the dark skin pigment melanin, which gives our skin some protection from burning. Melanin is a response to damage from UV radiation and appears as a tan.

A tan is a sign that the skin has been damaged by over exposure to UV radiation from the sun or sunbeds and is not a sign of good health. Tanning without sunburn can still cause premature skin ageing and increase the risk of skin cancer through irreparable DNA damage.

Fake Tans

Fake tanning products contain dyes that temporarily stain the skin brown. The stain binds to the skin and comes off when the dead skin cells flake off.

Generally fake tans offer very little UV radiation protection. Those that contain a SPF provide only short term protection for two to four hours from the time of application, not for the time the skin remains stained.

Fake tans encourage the idea that a tan is attractive and healthy. Appreciate your natural skin colour and avoid tanning.


Moles occur where melanocytes clump together. They are usually oval or round pigmented spots, with a smooth border and regular colour. They may be hard or raised and clump together.

20 – 40 are the average number of moles for an adult. Most appear around puberty and in later life many may disappear. It’s recommended that you check your skin├é┬ámonthly.


Freckles are flat and usually occur on sun exposed areas. Moles and freckles are very common in fair skinned people.