Skin and Sun Safety

Student wearing sunglasses on a sunny day

Skin and Sun Safety


Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. The two most common skin cancers (basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas) are highly curable but can be disfiguring and costly. Melanoma (the third most common skin cancer) may be deadly. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or from a tanning device can cause dangerous, lasting damage to your skin.

General 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.
  • History of sun exposure (skin damage is cumulative!).
  • History of sunburns, especially in early life.
  • History of indoor tanning. The average tanning bed gives of 2–10 times more UVA radiation than the sun. Using tanning beds before the age of 35 increases a person's 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. 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. No matter your skin tone, UV radiation can lead to skin damage, premature aging, and hyperpigmentation. Protecting your skin is important!

Preventing UV Light Exposure

The majority of skin cancers are caused by exposure to ultraviolet (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
  • Whenever possible, stay out of the sun from 10 a.m.–4 p.m. when UV radiation is the strongest

Wear Sunscreen

  • Broad spectrum UVA and UVB, SPF 30 or higher
  • Reapplication is necessary every two hours and after swimming, sweating, or toweling off
  • Most people do not put on enough sunscreen–aim for one ounce, which is about a palmful

Wear Protective Clothing

  • Wear long sleeves/pants with a dense weave or built in UPF
  • Use a wide-brimmed hat
  • Wear closed-toe shoes and socks that cover the ankle

Wear Sunglasses

  • Choose sunglasses with a UV protective coating
  • Wearing sunglasses helps protect the delicate skin around our eyes
  • UV rays can also increase risk of cataracts & macular degeneration–it makes sense to protect your eyes!

Check the UV Index - Know Before You Go!

  • The UV index can be found in most weather apps and also on
  • Dermatologists recommend sun protection when the UV index is 3 and above
  • As levels approach six and above, it’s best to limit your time in the sun
Sun behind a tree casting shade on The Green

ABCDEs of Melanoma

Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. When detected early, melanoma is highly treatable. Know your skin. Perform a self-exam each month. You can even ask a partner or friend to look at your back and scalp. If you see any of these warning signs, show them to your provider right away.

Asymmetry: Moles that have an asymmetrical appearance

Border: A mole that has blurry and/or jagged edges

Color: A mole that has more than one color

Diameter: Moles with a diameter larger than a pencil eraser (6 mm or 1/4 inch)

Evolution: A mole that has gone through changes in size, shape, or color

Additional Resources

Interested in learning more? Check out the following resources:

Skin Smart Campus

The University of Delaware has been recognized as a Skin Smart Campus by The National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention. Ensuring the well-being of our students, we are providing a safe and healthy learning and living environment on and off campus, pledging to keep indoor tanning devices off our campus and our affiliated buildings. We also promote 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 for melanoma by 75 percent.

Skin Smart Campus seal