The University of North Florida was awarded the platinum-level Skin Smart Campus designation by the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention and will implement a campus-wide skin cancer prevention initiative this month as part of National Skin Cancer Awareness month.
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.
“Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the country, with 20 percent of the population likely to develop skin cancer in their lifetime and an annual treatment cost well over $8 million. Even more tragic is that skin cancer is mostly preventable by avoiding indoor tanning and reducing sun exposure,” said Dr. Julie Merten, assistant professor of public health in the Brooks College of Health at UNF.
An Indoor Tan-Free 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.
“Many colleges just don’t seem to realize the importance of this issue,” said Dr. Sherry Pagoto, Skin Smart Campus Initiative co-chair. “They don’t view the health hazards for indoor tanning and unprotected sun exposure as significant like they do tobacco.”
Despite the known risks, indoor tanning is common among adolescents and young adults, with 37 percent of white adolescent females and 11 percent of adolescent white males having used indoor tanning facilities at least once in their lifetime. Additionally, early research suggests that indoor tanning has addictive properties, and that the risk of addiction is higher for individuals who begin tanning at an earlier age.