UConn is an Indoor Tan-Free Campus. What does that mean? There are no tanning beds on campus; there are no tanning salons that accept HuskyBucks as payment. UConn is committed to providing information about Skin Cancer Prevention to its students.
Skin Cancer Facts
Skin cancer is the most common cancer worldwide. In the United States, 1 in 5 people will develop skin cancer by age 70. There are three major types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. While carcinoma is more common than melanoma, melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer.
Although rates of most common cancers in the United States have declined, rates of melanoma have increased in the last 30 years. Each year, over 91,000 Americans are diagnosed with melanoma. That is 1 person every 8 minutes. Experts believe that 90% of all melanomas are caused by ultraviolet radiation from the sun or indoor tanning devices.
Fair skin. Anyone, regardless of skin color, can get skin cancer. Having less pigment (melanin) in your skin provides less protection from damaging UV radiation.
A history of sunburns. Having had one or more blistering sunburns as a child or teenager increases your risk of developing skin cancer as an adult.
Excessive sun exposure. Anyone who spends considerable time in the sun may develop skin cancer, especially if the skin isn’t protected by sunscreen or clothing. A tan is your skin’s injury response to excessive UV radiation.
Sunny or high-altitude climates. People who live in sunny, warm climates are exposed to more sunlight than are people who live in colder climates. Living at higher elevations, where the sunlight is strongest, also exposes you to more radiation.
Moles. People who have many moles or abnormal moles called dysplastic nevi are at increased risk of skin cancer. If you have a history of abnormal moles, watch them closely for changes and schedule regular appointments with a dermatologist.
A family history of skin cancer. If one of your parents or a sibling has had skin cancer, you may have an increased risk of the disease.
Sunbeds are not safe, they emit UV radiation, which is a known carcinogen. The World Health Organization lists indoor tanning beds as a cancer-causing agent.
The use of tanning beds increases your risk for all types of skin cancer. In fact, using a tanning bed before age 35 increases your lifetime risk of melanoma by 75 percent.1 Among women of all ages, the higher the frequency of indoor tanning, the higher the risk of developing melanoma.2
Myths vs. Facts
Myth: Often you’ll hear that you can protect yourself from a sunburn/UV damage by building up a base tan.
Fact: A tan is a sign that your skin has experienced damage as a result of prolonged UV exposure. If you plan to be outside, use the recommended 30 SPF sunscreen, wear sun-protectant clothing, and seek shade.
Myth: UV light from tanning beds gives my vitamin D a boost.
Fact: UV light from tanning beds are not a safe or effective way to increase your vitamin D levels. If you need to increase your vitamin D, it should be done through diet and/or supplements.
Myth: Seeing a tanning bed in the gym means it is part of a healthy lifestyle.
Fact: Many gyms across the country offer indoor tanning to members. A recent article in UConn Today suggests a connection between exercise and tanning; people who tan in gyms tan more often. Ongoing, occasional use of tanning beds triples a person’s lifelong risk of melanoma, according to the Melanoma Research Foundation.
Myth: There is a new drug that produces melanin to protect your skin.
Fact: Researchers created a drug that causes human skin cells to produce melanin without any sun exposure. However, the melanin produced from this drug gives the equivalent of 3 to 4 SPF, which does not compare to the recommended 30 SPF sunscreen for outdoor activities. Drugs like these will not protect your skin from UV damage.
Myth: Tanning beds help treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Fact: Light therapy is a way to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and certain other conditions by exposure to artificial light. Tanning beds do not emit the same type of light as used in light therapy to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder. Therefore, sunbeds are not a proven treatment. If you suffer from SAD, talk to your healthcare provider about therapy options.
Regular daily use of an SPF 15 or higher sunscreen reduces the risk of developing melanoma by 50 percent. If you plan to be outside for prolonged activity, you should be using a broad spectrum, water resistant 30 SPF sunscreen. Avoid prolonged sun exposure during peak hours (10am-4pm). Also consider wearing ultraviolet protective factor (UPF) clothing when spending time outdoors.
When performing a skin self-exam, the first five letters of the alphabet are a guide to help you recognize the warning signs of melanoma.
A is for Asymmetry. Most melanomas are asymmetrical. If you draw a line through the middle of the lesion, the two halves don’t match, so it looks different from a round to oval and symmetrical common mole.
B is for Border. Melanoma borders tend to be uneven and may have scalloped or notched edges, while common moles tend to have smoother, more even borders.
C is for Color. Multiple colors are a warning sign. While benign moles are usually a single shade of brown, a melanoma may have different shades of brown, tan or black. As it grows, the colors red, white or blue may also appear.
D is for Diameter or Dark. While it’s ideal to detect a melanoma when it is small, it’s a warning sign if a lesion is the size of a pencil eraser (about 6 mm, or ¼ inch in diameter) or larger. Some experts say it is also important to look for any lesion, no matter what size, that is darker than others. Rare, amelanotic melanomas are colorless.
E is for Evolving. Any change in size, shape, color or elevation of a spot on your skin, or any new symptom in it, such as bleeding, itching or crusting, may be a warning sign of melanoma.
If you notice any of these warning signs, see a dermatologist promptly. A Student Health and Wellness – Medical Care provider can evaluate your health concern and assist with arranging a dermatology appointment.
- The International Agency for Research on Cancer Working Group. The association of use of sunbeds with cutaneous malignant melanoma and other skin cancers: a systematic review. Int J Canc 2006; 120:1116-1122.
- Lazovich D, Vogel RI, Weinstock MA, et al. Association between indoor tanning and melanoma in younger men and women. JAMA Dermatol 2016; 152(3): 268–275. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2015.2938