An Expensive Tanning Deal

Tanning and addiction cause similar brain activity

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Bronze, golden skin is part of the definition of American beauty. Many people have resorted to tanning beds, which seems to be accompanied by addiction and skin cancer. Researchers have found why tanners can’t stop tanning.

Tanning in tanning beds can cause skin cancer – especially melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer. Around 120,000 people in the U.S. develop melanoma, and people who use tanning beds have increased risks.

People feel rewarding effects in the brain from tanning in beds so they do it regardless of the negative consequences that could result.

"Stop using tanning beds for the sake of your physical and mental health."

Senior author, Bryon Adinoff, M.D., professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas South Western Medical Center, says even though there’s more awareness being spread about the dangers of tanning beds, the use of tanning beds are still increasing.

The study asked participants to use tanning beds on two separate occasions: one time they were exposed to ultraviolet rays and the other time they were not. Participants were not aware of when they were being exposed to ultraviolet rays. A compound was administered to each participant to measure brain blood flow during tanning sessions.

The results showed similar activity in the brain and simultaneous blood flow that an addict would have received from drugs or alcohol.

This could explain why people feel so compelled to continue using tanning beds, Adinoff says. More research is needed to understand the changes in the brain from frequent tanning, Adinoff adds.

The research is published in Addiction Biology.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 12, 2011
Last Updated:
August 14, 2011