Tanning addicts, who are mostly women, continue to tan even if aware of the risks associated with sun exposure, believing they look healthier and thinner. However, studies conducted by physicians at the University of Washington at Seattle, USA and which were published in the The Skin Cancer Foundation Journal, showed that frequent tanners also report mood enhancement and a sense of relaxation as their main motivation for tanning, thereby supporting the existence of a physiological component within the brain.
These findings are supported by studies conducted at North Carolina's Wake Forest University Medical Center, where researchers demonstrated that those who visit tanning salons frequently experience withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety, nausea and tremors, when given a drug that blocks endorphins and their pleasure-giving properties.
The problem is that, as with other addictions, it is detrimental to the health and well-being of those who suffer from it. Just as those addicted to smoking continue to smoke even if they are aware of the risks involved and the possibility of lung cancer, tanning addicts continue to abuse UV radiation despite already having visible skin damage: the tan itself. Sunlight exposure, even for brief periods of time, can cause mutations in the DNA of skin cells, increasing the risk of skin cancer.
Could You Be Addicted to Tanning?
Answer the following questions and find out if this activity could be a problem for you.
By Francisco Renick, M.D.
The CAGE questionnaire is a validated tool that was created in 1968 at North Carolina Memorial Hospital with the goal of screening for alcohol abuse through four highly effective questions. It has been modified and adapted to evaluate other addictions and dependencies. Below, a modified version that is useful in identifying a tanning addiction:
• Have you ever felt the need to cut down on the time you spend tanning?
• Do you ever get annoyed when people comment on your tanning habits?
• Have you ever felt guilty about your tanning habits?
• Do you frequently feel the need to tan first thing in the morning (eye-opener)? Do you need for it to be your first activity of the day in order to feel good?
If you answered "yes" to 1 or 2 questions, it is important to take it as a warning sign. However, if you answered "yes" to 3 or 4 questions, you might have a tanning dependence. Try to change your tanning habits and consult with your healthcare provider as soon as possible.