Despite the well known negative effects of unprotected sun exposure (i.e. premature wrinkling, sun spots (liver spots), increased freckles, and even skin cancer), thousands of Americans flock to the tanning bed to gain the “healthy glow” they feel is key in looking trim and vivacious. According to statistics released by the Skin Cancer Foundation, nearly 120,000 cases of melanoma are diagnosed each year. In addition to those startling statistics, previous studies have shown that those individuals under the age of 30 who regularly tan (at least ten times per year) are eight times more likely to develop malignant melanoma than those who don’t; yet, the tanning industry is booming. A study completed by University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center may have just figured out a key component to this seemingly vicious cycle of sun damage: addiction.
UT Southwestern’s pilot study monitored the brain circulation of participants while tanning. The participants completed two tanning sessions–one that exposed them to regular ultra violet light and another that used special filters to block the damaging UV rays. The study’s subjects were also administered a compound to measure blood flow to the brain and interviewed after their tanning sessions about how much they wanted to continue tanning.
The results of the study likened the brain activity and survey responses of the tanners to those collected from people addicted to drugs and alcohol. Senior author of the study Dr. Bryon Adinoff summarized the observations, “Using tanning beds has rewarding effects in the brain so people may feel compelled to persist in the behavior even though it’s bad for them.”
With over 150 years of combined practice experience, the board certified dermatologists at Dermatology Associates of Atlanta know that this study emphasizes the need for patients to understand their risk factors for developing skin cancer such as the number of sunburns during childhood and adolescents, skin coloring, and even a family history of skin cancer. Besides avoiding sun exposure, many of these factors are unchangeable; however, patients can commit to having their annual skin cancer body check to ensure that there are no abnormal skin or mole changes that could be cancerous or precancerous (actinic keratosis).
Contact Dermatology Associates to schedule your skin cancer body check and learn more about the laser skin treatments like Fraxel® and V-beam, or broad based light treatments like FotoFacial®, to reduce the appearance of sun damage. You can also connect with us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date on the latest skin care news.