In 2017, the University of North Florida was awarded the platinum-level Skin Smart Campus designation by the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention. The Indoor Tan-Free Skin Smart Campus Initiative was started in response to the 2014 U.S. Surgeon General’s call to action to prevent skin cancer, which emphasized indoor tanning and unprotected sun exposure as significant health hazards that increase the risk of melanoma and other skin cancers.
A Skin Smart Campus demonstrates a commitment to skin cancer prevention and the ongoing health of its students. UNF is committed to keeping indoor tanning machines off campus, educating students, faculty and staff on the dangers of indoor tanning as well as providing sunscreen samples in common University areas.
The universities recognized by this award have demonstrated a commitment to skin cancer prevention and the ongoing health of its students. Platinum-level universities don’t list any off-campus housing that includes indoor tanning as an amenity on the university’s off-campus housing listings website, doesn’t permit any indoor tanning salon to be included as a university-affiliated debit card merchant and provides access to educational programming focusing on the risks of UV exposure and skin cancer prevention practices to students, faculty and staff.
Skin Cancer Prevention
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. The two most common types of skin cancer—basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas—are highly curable, but can be disfiguring and costly to treat. Melanoma, the third most common skin cancer, is more dangerous and causes the most deaths. The majority of these three types of skin cancer are caused by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) light.
Ultraviolet (UV) rays are an invisible kind of radiation that comes from the sun, tanning beds, and sunlamps. UV rays can penetrate and change skin cells.
The three types of UV rays are ultraviolet A (UVA), ultraviolet B (UVB), and ultraviolet C (UVC)—
- More UVA rays reach the earth’s surface than the other types of UV rays. UVA rays can reach deep into human skin, UVA rays can damaging connective tissue and the skin’s DNA.
- Most UVB rays are absorbed by the ozone layer, so fewer of them reach the earth’s surface compared to UVA rays. UVB rays, which help produce vitamin D in the skin, don’t reach as far into the skin as UVA rays, but they can still cause sunburn and damage DNA.
- UVC rays are very dangerous, but they are absorbed completely by the ozone layer and do not reach the earth’s surface.
In addition to causing sunburn, too much exposure to UV rays can change skin texture, cause the skin to age prematurely, and can lead to skin cancer. UV rays also have been linked to eye conditions such as cataracts.
Anyone can get skin cancer, but people with certain characteristics are at greater risk—
- A lighter natural skin color.
- Skin that burns, freckles, reddens easily, or becomes painful in the sun.
- Blue or green eyes.
- Blond or red hair.
- Certain types and a large number of moles.
- A family history of skin cancer.
- A personal history of skin cancer.
Protection from ultraviolet (UV) radiation is important all year round, not just during the summer or at the beach. UV rays from the sun can reach you on cloudy and hazy days, as well as bright and sunny days. UV rays also reflect off of surfaces like water, cement, sand, and snow. Indoor tanning (using a tanning bed, booth, or sunlamp to get tan) exposes users to UV radiation.
The hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. are the most hazardous for UV exposure outdoors in the United States. UV rays from sunlight are the greatest during the late spring and early summer.
CDC recommends easy options for protection from UV radiation—
- Stay in the shade, especially during midday hours.
- Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs.
- Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade your face, head, ears, and neck.
- Wear sunglasses that wrap around and block both UVA and UVB rays.
- Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher, and both UVA and UVB (broad spectrum) protection.
- Avoid indoor tanning.
Signs of Skin Cancer
A change in your skin is the most common sign of skin cancer. This could be a new growth, a sore that doesn’t heal, or a change in a mole. Not all skin cancers look the same.
A simple way to remember the signs of melanoma is to remember the A-B-C-D-Es of melanoma—
- “A” stands for asymmetrical. Does the mole or spot have an irregular shape with two parts that look very different?
- “B” stands for border. Is the border irregular or jagged?
- “C” is for color. Is the color uneven?
- “D” is for diameter. Is the mole or spot larger than the size of a pea?
- “E” is for evolving. Has the mole or spot changed during the past few weeks or months?
Talk to your doctor if you notice changes in your skin such as a new growth, a sore that doesn’t heal, a change in an old growth, or any of the A-B-C-D-Es of melanoma.