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Are You Addicted to Sun-Bathing, the Tanning Bed or Looking Tan?

Despite all the warnings and research related to sun exposure and resulting skin cancer, people still choose to be “tan”. An estimated one million Americans frequent tanning salons every day. In the middle of February, it doesn’t seem timely to talk about sun damage. However, the suns rays are still damaging even in the winter months and tanning salons can be even busier due to the lack of a “natural” alternative. Many of you are probably already thinking about and making Spring Break plans in warm weather destinations. In this 3 part blog series we will cover “Tanorexia”- the addiction to tanning, the importance of sunscreen and the solution for reversing damage already done.

Part 1-Tanorexia:

The need to “have a tan” can be an addiction called “Tanorexia”. A recent study found that individuals who tanned frequently reported that tanning is relaxing, improves their mood and makes them feel like they look “healthier”. A positive reward from a specific behavior such as sun bathing is omnipresent in an addict’s nature.

A compelling report in the journal Addiction Biology showed that people who frequently use tanning beds experience changes in brain activity during a tanning session that mimics the same brain activity patterns identified in drug addiction. In fact, the research showed that multiple parts of the brain that play a role in addiction were activated when the test subjects were exposed to UV rays.

Subjects were able to differentiate between being exposed to Ultraviolet light vs. exposure to light in which the UV component was filtered out. This may help explain why some people continue to tan frequently despite awareness about skin cancer and premature aging and wrinkles.

Even the most skin conscious of us have spent time in the sun we shouldn’t have. Either before we really knew the long term effects or just because we were not prepared when we should have been.  By now you are aware of the necessity of sunscreen which I will go into detail about Saturday’s blog about the benefit of sunscreen.

For now, I will leave you with these questions to determine if you are “Tanorexic”…

1. Do you need to tan in order to feel good?

2. Are you tanning more than 8 times in a month?

3. Do you have anxiety or become agitated if you cannot find a way to tan?

4. Are you frightened by the idea of quitting tanning?

If you answered yes to these questions, you might consider seeking addiction counseling. Tanorexia is a serious condition that can lead to an even more serious problem, skin cancer. Learn more about skin cancer here.

To your skin health,

Dr. Richard Asarch, M.D.

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