Colorado has one of the highest death rates in the United States from melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. In hopes of reducing the numbers within its community, the CU Anschutz Medical Campus is spreading the word about sunscreen protection, offering both the message and the means.
Just in time for May’s Melanoma Awareness Month, three bright-yellow sunscreen dispensers now dot the campus, providing students, faculty and staff free sunscreen that they can slather on throughout the day.
“Many people forget to apply sunscreen in the morning, or they apply it only once,” said Nazanin Kalani, fourth-year student in the CU School of Medicine (SOM). “When free sunscreen is provided, you give people the opportunity to apply, or reapply, before they spend time outdoors.”
Spreading a message
Spearheaded by Robert Dellavalle, MD, PhD, and his dermatology/public health lab, with the help of Cody Glickman, president of the CU Anschutz Student Senate, the dispensers were installed last week. They will be funded by the Defeat Melanoma-Jeff Dulude Melanoma Foundation for the next three years.
“Skin cancer is the number-one most-preventable cancer,” said Claudia Dulude, founder of the foundation. “By placing free sunscreen around campus, we are making strides to end melanoma.”
Dulude launched the foundation after losing her husband and father of their two children to melanoma when he was 37. A Boulder engineer, Jeff Dulude was an outdoor enthusiast who especially loved taking his kids skiing.
Defeat Melanoma has placed more than 100 dispensers across the country, including on school campuses and at trailheads.
Coloradans at higher risk
In Colorado, residents are at a higher risk for skin cancer partly due to higher elevation and active outdoor lifestyles, both of which increase exposure to cancer-causing ultraviolet rays. Skiing offers a double-whammy, with its high-elevation locales and UV-ray reflection off the snow.
Although the dispensers are a step in the right direction, there are other important steps to ensuring skin safety, Dellavalle said.
“It’s a common misconception that we only need sunscreen to protect ourselves,” he said. “You should also avoid the midday sun using shade, clothing and hats. If you need to be outside, try to complete these activities before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m.,” Dellavalle said.
“Having sunscreen on campus is a huge step in promoting sun safety and skin cancer prevention,” said Kalani. “Not only are we encouraging students to use sunscreen while on campus, but we are reminding them of the importance to educate their future patients.”
The CU Anschutz dispensers are in the north lobby of Education 2 North, the south lobby of Education 1 and the Etai lobby of Research 2.
“I hope that sunscreen dispensers at CU Anschutz encourages other campuses to push for sunscreen and shaded structures on their campuses,” said Kalani. “Hopefully, this push could trickle down to elementary and high schools as well. The earlier we can promote these habits, the better.”