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Skin Safety

Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S

  • 3 major types: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma
  • While carcinoma is more common than melanoma, melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer
  • Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or from a tanning device can cause dangerous, lasting damage to your skin

Common Risk Factors for Skin Cancer: 

  • Light skin, or skin that burns, freckles, or reddens easily (but skin of all colors can get skin cancer)
  • Large number of moles
  • Personal or family history of skin cancer
  • Excessive sun exposure
  • History of sunburns, especially in early life
  • Indoor tanning
    • The average tanning bed gives off 2 to 10x more UV radiation than the sun
    • Using tanning beds before the age of 35 increases risk for developing melanoma by 75%

Skin Cancer in People of Color

Even if you have a darker skin tone, always tan, or rarely burn, you can still get skin cancer. No matter your skin tone, UV radiation can lead to skin damage, premature aging, and hyperpigmentation. Protecting your skin is important!

  • Skin cancer is often diagnosed later in people of color, making it harder to treat
  • Melanoma in people of color most often occurs on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, under the nail (subungual) and in the nail areas

Preventing UV Light Exposure

Most skin cancers are caused by exposure to UV light and can be prevented with sun safety practices:

  • Seek shade
    • Find shade under a dense tree canopy, shade sail, or pavilion
    • Carry a sun umbrella for personal shade
    • Use a pop-up UV shelter when at the beach or park
    • When possible, stay out of the sun from 10 AM – 4 PM (when UV radiation is the strongest)
  • Wear sunscreen
    • Broad spectrum UVA and UVB, SPF 30+
    • Reapplication is necessary every 2 hours and after swimming, sweating, or toweling off
    • Most people do not put on enough sunscreen – aim for 1 oz spread evenly over all visible skin
  • Wear protective clothing
    • Long sleeves/pants with a dense weave or built in UPF
    • Wide-brimmed hat
    • Closed-toe shoes and socks that cover the ankle
  • Wear sunglasses
    • Choose sunglasses with a UV protective coating
    • Helps protect the delicate skin around our eyes
    • Helps reduce risk of cataracts and macular degeneration
  • UV Index
    • Know before you go!
    • Consider checking the UV index which can often be found on your preferred weather app or on the EPA's website
    • Dermatologists recommend the above sun safety measures when the UV index is 3 and above
    • As levels approach 6 and above, it’s best to limit your time in the sun
Exposure Category Index Number Sun Protection Message
Low 1 – 2

No Protection Required

Unless outdoors for extended periods, or near reflective surfaces such as snow or water.

Moderate 3 – 5

Protection Required

Slip on clothing.

Slap on sunscreen, use sun protection factor (SPF) 30 for adults and 50 for children.

Slap on a wide brimmed hat.

Seek shade during midday hours.

Slide on sunglasses, wraparound are best.

High 6 – 7
Very High 8 – 10

Extra Protection Required

Avoid being outside during midday hours.

Make sure you seek shade.

Always wear sunscreen and protective clothing i.e. shirt, hat, and sunglasses.

Extreme 11+

ABCDEs of Melanoma

Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. However, when detected early, melanoma is highly treatable. Know your skin. If you see any of these warning signs, show them to your provider right away.

AAsymmetry: Moles that have asymetrical appearance
An example of a symmetrical mole.
An example of an asymmetrical mole.
BBorder: A mole that has blurry and/or jagged edges
An example of a mole with smooth borders around it.
Smooth borders
An example of a mole with irregular borders around it.
Irregular borders
CColor: A mole that has more than one color
An example of a mole with a single color.
Single color
An example of a mole with multiple colors.
DDiameter: Moles with a diameter larger than a pencil eraser (6 mm or 1/4 inch)
An example of a mole with a diameter smaller than 6 mm / 0.2 in.
Smaller than 6 mm / 0.2 in
An example of a mole with a diameter larger than 6 mm / 0.2 in.
Bigger than 6 mm / 0.2 in
EEvolution: A mole that has gone through sudden changes in size, shape, or color.
An example of a mole showing no changes over time.
No changes
An example of a mole showing some changes over time.
Some changes

Additional Resources

Want to learn more? Check out the following resources: 

Skin Cancer Foundation (skin cancer facts and statistics)

Sun Safety (CDC)

Indoor Tanning Facts (American Academy of Dermatology)

How to Prevent Skin Cancer (American Academy of Dermatology)

How to Do a Skin Self Exam 

Skin Smart Campus

National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention. Indoor Tan-Free Skin Smart CampusThe University of Tennessee Health Science Center has been recognized as a Skin Smart Campus by The National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention by: 

  • Providing safe and healthy learning and living environments on- and off-campus
  • Pledging to keep indoor tanning devices off our campus and out of our affiliated buildings
  • Promoting skin cancer prevention policies and education

The Indoor Tan-Free Skin Smart Campus Initiative is sponsored by the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention in response to the 2014 U.S. Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer which concluded that there is a strong association between increased risk of skin cancer and indoor tanning use. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure from indoor tanning is completely avoidable which allows for interventions to help reduce skin-cancer related illness and deaths. Numerous studies have found that skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, with melanoma as one of the most common cancers diagnosed among young adults. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer Working Group, the use of indoor tanning facilities before the age of 35 increases the risk of developing melanoma by 75%. 

Sunscreen Dispenser Locations: 

  • General Education Building (GEB)
  • Student Alumni Center (SAC)
Mar 31, 2023