Study Finds Tanning is Addictive

Posted on April 3, 2006

Fox News reports on a new study that reveals some people continue the unhealthy practice of tanning because its gives them a high. The study found that tanning makes the skin release endorphins simlar to "runner's high." There are also withdrawal symptoms when people try and quit tanning.

Tanning, dermatologists have found, makes the skin give off endorphins. These opioid compounds make a person feel good. They are the reason endurance runners report "runner's high." Could there really be such a thing as tanner's high?

The author of the 2005 report suggesting that frequent tanning may be a type of substance abuse is Richard Wagner Jr., MD, deputy chairman of dermatology and director of dermatologic surgery at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. Wagner says the idea came from skin cancer patients who couldn't stop tanning.

"Every dermatologist will tell you there are some patients we are concerned about," Wagner tells WebMD. "We know ultraviolet (UV) light can lead to skin cancer. Yet we all see patients with skin cancer who are always tan. We tell them not to tan on purpose, and some say, 'But doc, I like it too much. It makes me feel relaxed. I know I am getting skin cancer, but I can't stop.'"

So Wagner went down to the beach and gave addiction questionnaires to people who were sunning themselves. As many as half met the psychological criteria for substance-related disorder. That substance: sun tanning.

Tanning is no longer necessary even for those who want the "tan look" because of all the self-tanning products available. Now that there is a reported addictive quality to sun tanning and tanning beds maybe frequent tanners will be able to overcome these addictions.

More from Science Space & Robots