Tanning beds can be addictive

Tanning beds can be addictive

By Liz Lockhart

People who can’t get enough of tanning beds could be the victims of an addictive neurological reward-and-reinforcement trigger according to a recent pilot study.

The physiological addiction could explain why some people continue to use tanning beds despite the warnings of the increased risk of developing melanoma, the most lethal form of skin cancer.

According to researchers at the UT Southwestern Medical Centre, tanning aficionados have similar brain activity and corresponding cerebral blood flow as that found in people addicted to drugs and alcohol. 

 ‘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,’ said psychiatrist Dr. Bryon Adinoff, senior author of the study which is available online and in a future print edition of Addiction Biology.

‘The implication is, ‘If it’s rewarding, then could it also be addictive?’ It’s an important question in the field.’ added Dr. Adinoff.

According to experts around 120,000 new cases of melanoma are diagnosed in the US each year.  There is an eight times higher risk of developing malignant melanoma for people under 30 who use a tanning bed 10 times a year.  It is reported that while public knowledge of the risk of melanoma has grown the regular use of tanning beds has grown with it.

Adinoff and his research team plan to continue their study of brain activity and cerebral blood flow changes associated with the addictive behavior.

Source: UT Southwestern Medical Centre  

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