Tanning addiction

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: March 28th, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

If you’re eagerly awaiting the arrival of warm spring weather so you can head outside and get a jump-start on that summer tan, we have some bad news:

You just might be an addict.

Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston say people who obsessively bronze their bodies may have a diagnosable medical condition, comparable to alcohol or drug dependence.

Though it sounds like an example of political correctness run amok, the idea makes some sense. One hallmark of addiction is repeated harmful behavior. And considering how much evidence links skin cancer and sun exposure, it’s easy to view hardcore tanners as foolhardy.

For the study, researchers modified two well-known questionnaires used for diagnosing substance abuse. The revised questions covered topics such as feelings of guilt about excessive tanning and efforts to cut back.

One-hundred-forty-five beachgoers completed the questionnaires. Results from the first indicated that a quarter of respondents were tanning-dependent; results from the second indicated more than half had a problem.

One question asked why respondents visited the beach. Tanning was the main goal for five times as many women as men. Similarly, younger respondents were three times as likely to hit the sand to tan compared with their older counterparts.

Not convinced tanning addicts exist?

Consider this… some studies have suggested tanning may stimulate production of endorphins, the body’s natural opiates. So maybe there is something more than vanity that makes tanners curse the winter and count the days ‘til they can soak up rays.