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Could You Be Addicted to Tanning?


Updated June 30, 2008

In a 2006 study, researchers at Wake Forest University may have solved the question as to why many men and women still tan despite being aware of the dangers. These tanorexics, or people who obsessively tan, may have an addiction to the UV rays of tanning beds, even experiencing a 'high', much like a drug addiction.

Tanning May Be Euphoric

The study has found that the UV rays in tanning beds have an effect the production endorphins, chemicals released from the brain that produce euphoric like feeling in the body. Endorphins are often referred to a our bodies natural morphine, reducing the pain we feel.

The Wake Forest study followed 8 people who tanned at tanning beds frequently, from 8 to 15 times a month and 8 people who tanned less than 12 times year. All participants were given a drug to block endorphin production and were instructed to tan in UV and non UV tanning beds.

Those who tanned frequently were more apt to UV ray based beds than there less tanning counterparts. When using non-UV beds, the frequent tanners developed symptoms that are similar to narcotics withdrawal. The less frequent tanners did not experience any symptoms.

The Effects of Tanning on Our Bodies

Did you know that when our skin gets darker from tanning, it is actually a product of skin cell damage? The skin turns darker to protect itself. Tanners are literally damaging their cell's DNA, which could eventually lead to cancer.

Contrary to popular belief, using tanning beds is no safer than directly tanning in the sun. Many experts believe that tanning beds may be worse than the natural sun because they use UVA rays, which have been linked to melanoma, a deadly type of skin cancer.

Tanning can be achieved safely through artificial means, like self tanning lotions, spray on tans, and bronzing cosmetics.

Reference: Office of the Attorney General, WA - Teen Consumers, Tanning
Press Release; Wake Forest University Basptist Medical Center - Small Study Points to Addictive Effects of Frequent Tanning

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