By Margarita Nahapetyan
People who use tanning beds on a regular basis may actually be suffering from a form of addiction, similar to alcohol, anxiety or substance abuse, US scientists have found.
Researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre and the University of Albany, State University of New York, based their findings a study of 421 college students, including 229 who had used indoor tanning beds. The students were asked a variety of questions concerning their tanning habits and other related information. The experts were also interested to figure out whether people who regularly visited tanning salons were more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs, or to show any signs of anxiety or depression.
The results revealed that among 229 participants, who had been frequent goers to indoor tanning salons, the average number of visits during the previous year was 23. It was found that a total of 90 participants (39.3 per cent) met the criteria for tanning addiction, loosely referred to as "tanorexia," and 78 per cent of tanners have tried to quit the tanning habit, but could not.
According to the researchers, students who did meet the criteria for tanning addiction, were more likely to report symptoms of anxiety, use of marijuana, alcohol and other substances, when compared to those who were not addicted to sunbeds. Frequent tanners have also reported missing scheduled plans because of the desire to use a tanning bed instead.
Dr. Catherine Mosher, a co-author of the study and a postdoctoral research fellow at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, said that previous studies have suggested that exposure to UV radiation from tanning beds releases natural opioids in the body, known as endorphins. Another research has found elevated blood levels of endorphins among those who use sunbeds, but other studies were not able to find a similar effect. As to indoor tanners themselves, they reported that tanning significantly improves their mood and relaxes them.
Scientists say that not only are tanning beds possibly addictive, but they are also extremely dangerous as they increase a person's risk of developing skin cancer. However, in spite of such a risk, tanning beds are becoming more and more popular, especially for the younger generation who would rather have a nice tan, even if getting that nice tan is associated with the risk of having skin cancer.
Dr. Mosher and her colleagues say that more studies are needed to the usefulness of incorporating a brief anxiety and depression screening for people who like to tan indoors. "Patients with anxiety or depression could be referred to mental health professionals for diagnosis and treatment," the experts concluded.
Details of the study are published in the April issue of the journal The Archives of Dermatology.