News: Featured Stories

Sherry Pagoto, PhD
September 14, 2016

Sherry Pagoto raising awareness of dangers of indoor tanning on college campuses

  • Medical School
National Indoor Tan-Free Skin Smart Campus Initiative formed after UMMS study

Clinical psychologist and skin cancer prevention expert Sherry Pagoto, PhD, is helping to spearhead a national campaign aimed at reducing college students’ skin cancer risks.

Dr. Pagoto, professor of medicine, is co-chairing the Indoor Tan-Free Skin Smart Campus Initiative, which was launched today by the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention.

“Melanoma is one of the most common cancers in young women, and that may be partially attributable to indoor tanning behaviors,” Pagoto said. “By making tanning devices so easily accessible, colleges are putting their students at risk for potentially deadly melanoma and other skin cancers.”

According to a 2014 study by Pagoto, 48 percent of the U.S. News and World Report’s 125 top colleges had indoor tanning facilities either on campus or in off-campus housing surrounding the schools. More than half a million students have access to tanning beds on campus, representing 12 percent of the schools surveyed. In addition, more than 14.4 percent of universities allowed students to pay for indoor tanning using campus cash cards.

In response to this and the U.S. surgeon general’s call to action to prevent cancer, the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention started the Indoor Tan-Free Skin Smart Campus Initiative, which is modeled after the national tobacco-free campaign that has raised awareness of the dangers of smoking tobacco.

“We have thousands of smoke-free and tobacco-free campuses throughout the country. We want this initiative to spread as well and help to make college a healthier place,” Pagoto said.

The group recently recognized East Tennessee State University as the first college to meet the criteria as being a Skin Smart Campus by adopting policies regarding skin cancer prevention and indoor-tanning awareness. To be designated as a Skin Smart Campus, colleges must demonstrate a commitment to student health by promoting skin cancer prevention and education; prohibit indoor tanning facilities on campus and in university-promoted off-campus housing; and prohibit use of university cash cards to pay for indoor tanning services.

Several states, including Massachusetts, have approved legislative bans on indoor tanning for minors. The FDA is considering a national ban.