Addicted to Tanning: Study Links Brain Changes to Tanorexia

dermatology associates of atlantaDespite 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. More