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ETSU first in the nation to be designated a ‘Skin Smart Campus’
Dr. Katie Baker discusses ETSU's Skin Smart Campus designation during a news conference.

JOHNSON CITY (Aug. 31, 2016) – East Tennessee State University is the first higher education institution in the nation to be designated an Indoor Tan-Free Skin Smart Campus by the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention (NCSCP). The designation was officially announced today at a special reception held at ETSU.

The NCSCP launched its Indoor Tan-Free Skin Smart Campus Initiative in response to the Surgeon General’s call to action to prevent skin cancer. The initiative focuses on promoting skin cancer prevention and providing related education on college campuses.

“One of the goals of the Call to Action is to reduce harms from indoor tanning, and we believe the Indoor Tan-Free Skin Smart Campus Initiative is a big step in that direction,” said Dr. Sophie J. Balk, NCSCP co-chairperson. “By educating college students about skin cancer risk and eliminating indoor tanning on college campuses, we hope to reduce melanoma incidence down the road.”

The NCSCP selected ETSU as its first Skin Smart Campus based on the university’s strong track record in research and advocacy relating to skin cancer prevention and the effects of indoor tanning.

Much of that work is being done by Drs. Katie Baker and Joel Hillhouse in the College of Public Health. Baker conducts research specifically related to maternal influences on their daughters’ tanning while Hillhouse serves as the director of ETSU’s Skin Cancer Prevention Laboratory and is regularly interviewed by national media outlets as an expert in the field.

“We’ve been doing this research for a long time,” Baker said. “This designation is a big step for ETSU. It is incredibly exciting that our university recognizes the importance of both our research and our prevention efforts.”

To earn the designation, ETSU has agreed to prohibit indoor tanning services in any university building, will not allow any tanning salons to be listed as off-campus merchants on students’ ID Bucs debit card, will refrain from listing on its website any off-campus housing options with indoor tanning as an amenity and will provide relevant educational programming for students, faculty and staff.

“I applaud Dr. Baker and her colleagues for leading the charge in this effort,” said Dr. Brian Noland, ETSU president. “Prior to implementing this as a policy at ETSU, we already met several of the Skin Smart Campus criteria. This policy builds on existing health and wellness programs at the university and is part of this institution’s ongoing efforts to improve the quality of life for the people of the region.”

The policy stands to protect the most at-risk population when it comes to indoor tanning and skin cancer. Fifty-nine percent of college students have, at some point in their lifetime, tanned indoors while 43 percent have tanned in the last year alone, Baker noted.

“College students have the highest indoor tanning rates of any population in the country,” she said. “Working with adolescents and young adults on cancer prevention is very difficult because the disease often happens later in life so they don’t worry about it in the here and now.”

            In conjunction with the Skin Smart Campus designation, ETSU launched a new, informational website that offers free and easy access to important educational materials relating to indoor tanning. The website can be found at www.etsu.edu/cph/skin-smart/.

“We hope ETSU and future honorees serve as role models for colleges and universities across the nation,” said Dr. Robert Dellavalle, Skin Smart Campus Initiative co-chairperson.

For more information about the Skin Smart Campus designation, call Baker at 423-439-6720.  For more information about NCSCP’s Skin Smart Campus Initiative, visit www.SkinSmartCampus.org.

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