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Study: Tanning May Be Addictive

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In a fascinating new study, dermatologists in Seattle have discovered that it may be possible for people to become addicted to ultraviolet (UV) light and that the addiction may be a “substance-related disorder” similar in nature to drug and alcohol addiction. The results of their study have been published in the current issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

“Numerous studies have shown that increased knowledge of the dangers of overexposure to UV light often fails to change tanning behavior and attitudes, especially among high-risk age groups such as adolescents and young adults,” explained Dr. Robin Hornung, the study’s lead author. “We also know from previous experiments that UV light causes endorphin release, similar to the euphoric sensation associated with intense exercise commonly referred to as ‘runner’s high’ or other pleasure-seeking behavior. Our study set out to find whether certain individuals, particularly those who classify themselves as frequent tanners, exhibit addictive behaviors toward tanning.”

Researchers used the CAGE questionnaire as the basis for their findings; the CAGE tool is regularly used to determine substance-related disorders associated with alcohol use. The tanning-addiction problem seems to be worse for women and for those who frequent indoor tanning facilities.

“If tanning is addictive as our study suggests, it helps explain why education alone will probably not stop high-risk tanning behavior similar to how the ‘don’t drink’ and ‘don’t smoke’ messages often fail to change behaviors,” Dr. Hornung added.

“The fact that tanning may be addictive for some individuals should strengthen the argument for stricter regulations on the indoor tanning industry,” Dr. Hornung said. “Education alone is not enough to stop high-risk tanning behavior, and skin cancer rates will continue to increase markedly without proper intervention.”

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