Clear message, better laws needed to fight excessive tanning

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: January 25th, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

As the cold winter days pale our complexion, thousands of sun worshippers will turn to tanning booths to keep their bronze glow, even though most know tanning is bad for their them.

Studies show that many people who regularly tan know that exposure to the ultraviolet rays of the sun or a tanning booth increases their risk of developing skin cancer.

Texas researchers think they may have found out why many choose to ignore conventional medical advice to shun the sun. Using diagnostic criteria adapted from screening surveys for alcoholism and drug dependency, they’ve determined that repetitive tanning behavior may be the product of a kind of addiction. There’s also been mixed evidence from other studies suggesting that tanning increases endorphin production, which could be addictive.

Researchers speculate this addiction for tanning could explain why educational interventions haven’t been more successful.

Public awareness campaigns may not be helping much, but another study shows that laws can deter young tanning fanatics… at least when it comes to keeping minors out of tanning salons.

In three states that have age restrictions on indoor tanning access, more than sixty percent of surveyed facilities report they would NOT allow a twelve-year-old to tan. In non-regulation states, the compliance rate was less than twenty percent.

Experts cite the need for a clear, consistent message about the dangers of U-V exposure and how that message should be delivered… suggesting more input from parents and peers would help.