MONDAY, Aug. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Frequent indoor tanners may
exhibit brain changes that are similar to those seen among people
who are addicted to drugs and alcohol, according to a new study
that adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting that indoor
tanning may be addictive.
Close to 30 million Americans visit indoor tanning salons each
year despite the well-publicized risks of skin cancer associated
with this practice. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is now
considering a ban on indoor tanning for people under age 18 and the
American Academy of Pediatrics is on record that it supports this
The new findings, released online in advance of publication in
an upcoming print issue of the journal
Addiction Biology, suggest that indoor tanning taps into the brain's "reward center."
"We saw brain changes that are consistent with that of other things that are considered rewarding such as money, food or drugs," explained study author Dr. Bryon Adinoff, a professor of psychiatry at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. "The same areas of the brain lit up, and we know that if something is rewarding to the brain, there is the potential for addiction."
The new study involved seven frequent tanners who said they had
used tanning beds an average of about 27 of the previous 90
The researchers had each participant use a tanning bed for
10-minute sessions under two conditions: in one session, the tanner
was exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, while in the other
session special filters blocked such exposure. Volunteers did not
know if the tanning session involved UV radiation or not.
Participants were asked before and after each session how much
they felt like tanning. They also received an intravenous compound
that allowed the researchers to measure brain blood flow during
their tanning sessions.
The result: Indoor tanning sessions that involved UV radiation
triggered activation of the brain's dorsal striatum region and the
medial orbitofrontal cortex, each of which plays a role in reward
and reinforcement. Sessions where UV radiation was blocked showed
less of this type of brain activation, the team found.
The findings make sense to Dr. Heidi Waldorf, an associate
clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in
New York City. "Like other addicts, 'tanorexics' continue to tan
indoors and out despite clear warnings of the dangers," she said.
"In my practice, I've seen women continue to tan after skin cancer
surgery and after spending thousands of dollars on cosmetic
procedures to rejuvenate their photodamaged skin."
But John Overstreet, the executive director of the Indoor
Tanning Association, a Washington, D.C.-based trade group
representing the indoor tanning industry, said that UV light is
essential for survival.
"Some people overdo things, but that doesn't mean they are addicted," he said. "Moderation is the key, whether your UV exposure is from a tanning bed or sun."
Find out more about the dangers of UV radiation at the
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