Melanoma is a killer. So is alcoholism and drug abuse. Did you ever think they were connected? A new study shows that the brains of people who say they're addicted to tanning act a lot like those of alcoholics and drug addicts. Maybe tanning rehab centers should be opening close to beaches nationwide.
Tanning comes with many health risks. According to, people under 30 who use a tanning bed 10 times a year have eight times the risk for malignant melanoma. Each year, melanoma strikes about 70,000 people and kills 9,000. More than 1 million Americans are diagnosed non-melanoma skin cancer each year.
Dr. Bryon Adinoff, professor of psychiatry at UT Southwestern Medical Center explains:
"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. The implication is, 'If it's rewarding, then could it also be addictive?'"
Researchers measured tanner's brain activity twice, once with ultraviolet radiation, and once using UV-blocking filters. Participants didn't know whether they were getting real UV radiation. The researchers saw that real UV rays changed tanners' brain activity and blood flow in ways that mimicked what is seen in addicts.
Dr. Howard Markel, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan and author of "An Anatomy of Addiction" continued:
"I think that anything that gives us pleasure and stimulates the limbic system of the brain has the potential to be addictive in the sense that we do it to excess and with harmful consequences."
If you do decide to tan, you need to protect yourself. Despite recent claims about sunscreen safety, consumers should rest assured that sunscreen products, and specifically the ingredients oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate, are safe and effective when used as directed. Sunscreens should be considered a vital part of a comprehensive sun protection regimen that includes seeking shade, covering up with clothing including a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses and avoiding tanning and UV tanning booths.
Sun protection is essential to skin cancer prevention. About 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers and 65% of melanomas are associated with exposure to UV radiation from the sun.
Melanoma originates in melanocytes, the cells which produce the pigment melanin that colors our skin, hair, and eyes. The majority of melanomas are black or brown, but often they can also be skin-colored, pink, red, purple, blue or white.
Cutaneous melanoma is the most lethal form of skin cancer, killing about one person per hour in the US. Its incidence has risen dramatically worldwide during the past five decades, with concomitant increases in mortality. However, mortality has decreased recently in some developed countries, including Australia, Canada, and the US, presumably owing partly to earlier detection and treatment of the disease, when it is usually curable.
When shopping for sunscreen, consumers should look for The Skin Cancer Foundation's Seal of Recommendation, which is awarded to sun protective products that meet stringent criteria for safety and effectiveness. The Foundation's volunteer Photobiology Committee, dermatologists with specialized knowledge on how the sun affects skin, review test results of all products which apply for the Seal of Recommendation. The Foundation requires that testing be done on human subjects; it is the only organization which reviews scientific testing results for sunscreens. Any analysis of sunscreens based on computer models for measuring UVA and UVB coverage can only be classified as "pseudo-science".
Written by Sy Kraft