Skin Cancer Prevention

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) can be deadly. 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 skins of all colors can get skin cancer) 
  • A large number of moles 
  • Personal or family history of skin cancer
  • History of sun exposure/sunburns (History of sun exposure is a leading risk factor in developing skin cancer—even without a burn; skin damage is cumulative.)
  • Indoor tanning. The average tanning bed gives off 2 to 10 times more radiation than the sun and 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 type, always tan, or rarely burn, you can still get skin cancer. Skin cancer is often diagnosed later in people of color, thus 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, and in the nail areas. No matter your skin type, UV radiation can lead to skin damage, premature aging, and hyperpigmentation. Protecting your skin is important!

Preventing UV Light Exposure 

Exposure to UV light causes most skin cancers and can be prevented with sun safety practices. 

  • Seek Shade
    • Find shade under a dense tree canopy.
    • Carry a sun umbrella for personal shade.
    • Use a pop-up UV shelter when at the beach/park.
    • Stay out of the sun from 10 am-4 pm wherever possible as this is when UV radiation is the strongest.  
  • Wear Sunscreen 
    • Use broad spectrum UVA and UVB, SPF30+.
    • Reapplication is necessary every 2 hours and after swimming, sweating, or toweling off.
    • Use enough sunscreen. Aim for one ounce spread over all visible skin.
  • Wear protective clothing
    • Wear long sleeves/pants with 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.
    • Wear sunglasses to protect the delicate skin around our eyes and reduce the risk of cataracts & macular degeneration.
  • UV Index
    • The UV index is a helpful tool/ resource to inform you about the necessary steps to protect your skin before stepping outside. This can often be found on your preferred weather app or the EPA's website
    • Dermatologists recommend sun protection when the UV index is 3 and above. As levels approach 6 and above, it’s best to limit your time in the sun.

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.

  • 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 sudden changes in size, shape, or color.

When detected early, melanoma is highly treatable. Know your skin and 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.

Know Your ABCDE's of Melanoma

Get Sunscreen on Campus

UC Berkeley students can find sunscreen dispensers at the following places on campus: 

  • Tang Center
  • Cesar E. Chavez Student Center
  • More to come!
UC Berkeley Map

Additional Resources

Want to learn more? Check out the following resources: 

The Skin Smart Campus Initiative

UC Berkeley 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. 

UC Berkeley staff and students promoting skin cancer prevention