Skin Smart Campus

Risks of UV exposure

All sunlight contains UV rays, which can penetrate below the skin’s surface to cause both immediate and long term damage. In Colorado, we are exposed to a greater intensity of UV radiation than anywhere else in the United States due to the high altitude and sunny weather (3). It is extremely important to understand the risks of UV exposure, and to take preventative measures as early as possible to protect your skin.  

The risks of UV exposure include premature aging of the skin, exacerbation of common skin conditions such as rosacea, and skin cancers including squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and melanoma. The UV damage accumulated in one’s teens and twenties can cause these problems to appear years later.

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Tanning beds have been classified by the World Health Organization as a human carcinogen (1). Studies show that the risk of melanoma and other skin cancers is significantly higher in people who use tanning beds, with a greater risk for those who use them at younger ages and more frequently. Among women under 30, tanning bed users are 6 times more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma (2).

Prevent UV Damage

The CDC recommends daily use of a sunscreen with SPF over 15, applied to all exposed skin. It is important to wear sunscreen even when it is cloudy or you are indoors all day, because UV radiation penetrates through clouds and windows.

This video allows you to see how sunscreen protects you from UV light:

In addition to sunscreen, it is a good idea to wear sun protective clothing, a wide-brimmed hat, and polarized sunglasses when you are outside. Some companies sell clothing and sunglasses that have a UV protection rating and will provide the best coverage.



1.     Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Indoor Tanning” Skin Cancer, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6 July 2018,

2.     Lazovich, DeAnn, et al. "Association between indoor tanning and melanoma in younger men and women." JAMA dermatology 152.3 (2016): 268-275.

3.     McKenzie, Richard, et al. "Geographical differences in erythemally-weighted UV measured at mid-latitude USDA sites." Photochemical & Photobiological Sciences 5.3 (2006): 343-352.