According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), on an average day in the United States, more than 1 million people tan in tanning salons. Many people anecdotally report how tanning helps them cope with stress, increase positive moods and decrease negative moods; however, medical science has suggested that these anecdotal reports may have a scientific basis, as ultraviolet (UV) radiation is thought to increase the activity of the body’s natural opioids, which can make us feel better and thus reinforce tanning behavior.
If this theory is true, tanning could be seen as a type of addiction. However, this notion remains controversial, as some researchers point out that studies have not yet identified whether or not loss of control (which is a hallmark of addiction) over tanning plays a role in tanning behavior. Loss of control over tanning behavior could be manifested by tanning more than planned, spending more time tanning than usual, and/or neglecting jobs and relationships in order to tan.
Ultimately, if tanning can be viewed as an addiction, experts propose that addiction treatment models might actually help prevent skin cancer. This could have major implications in skin cancer prevention, as the AAD reports that substantially more than 1 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States every year.
Although more research is needed in order to determine whether or not tanning can in fact be addictive, we do know that tanning is dangerous. The AAD reports that exposure to excessive UV light is the cause of most skin cancer. The AAD further notes that exposure to UV radiation during indoor tanning damages the DNA in the skin cells. Excessive exposure to UV radiation during indoor tanning can lead to premature skin aging, immune suppression, and eye damage, including cataracts and ocular melanoma.
Moreover, the AAD suggests that indoor tanning beds should be avoided and should not be used to obtain vitamin D since UV radiation from indoor tanning is a risk factor for skin cancer. Vitamin D can be obtained by a eating a healthy diet and by taking oral supplements.
Did you know that May is Skin Cancer Awareness month? Learn more about skin cancer and assessing your risks at the following websites:
- The Skin Cancer Foundation
- Skin cancer information
- Recognize skin cancer
- Assess your risk
- Fact sheet
Lookup Austin’s daily UV index here in order to take appropriate sun-protective behaviors and avoid overexposure to UV radiation.