News Stories

Tanning May be Addictive

People know that tanning salons and too much time on thebeach can lead to skin cancer, but they just can't stopthemselves. Now scientists have learned that tanning isaddictive.

Marjorie M. Montemayor reports in abcnews.com about a newstudy showing ultraviolet radiation gives you a natural"high." People feel more relaxed when they?re exposed totanning beds with UV radiation than beds where UV radiationis blocked. Dr. Anthony Liguori says, "Our data suggeststhat an important reason people tan is that it feels good." This mood is caused by the release of chemical endorphinsthat occurs when a person is exposed to UV radiation.Endorphins produce feelings of happiness and reduce pain andstress in the body, which is why the idea of a beachvacation is so seductive when you've had a bad day at theoffice. People in the travel business seem to know this,which is why so many ads show beach scenes.

Dermatologist Darrell Rigel says, "It is fair to think oftanning as an addiction. If the definition is performing abehavior that makes you feel good but is unhealthful and isa habit that is hard to break without significant effort,tanning clearly qualifies."

Liguori says, "Before this research no one really thoughtthat tanning was addictive [in the way] drugs are addictive.When someone is addicted to a drug, a telltale sign is thatthey have difficulty stopping. Here we looked at people whotan frequently. They can't go for more than a few dayswithout tanning."

Dermatologist Steven Feldman plans to test this by givingtanners a drug that blocks the effects of endorphins. Ifthey're addicted, that should help them to stop craving a tan.

If you must go to the beach, at least take along somegoodreading.

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