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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Frequent Tanning May Be Addictive

News Author: Laurie Barclay, MD


April 3, 2006 — Frequent tanning is addictive, according to the results of a small, randomized study reported in the April issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

"We had previously shown that ultraviolet light has an effect on mood that tanners value," lead author Mandeep Kaur, MD, from Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, said in a news release. "Now, in this small study, we've shown that some tanners actually experience withdrawal symptoms when the 'feel-good' chemicals are blocked."

The authors note that frequent tanners overwhelmingly prefer UV-emitting beds to non–UV-emitting tanning beds, even when their choice is blinded. Frequent tanning has features of an addictive behavior, which may be mediated by induction of cutaneous endorphins by UV light.

The investigators tested whether opioid antagonism blocks the potential reinforcing effect of indoor tanning in 8 frequent tanners, defined as those who tan 8 to 15 times a month or more than necessary to maintain a tan; and in 8 infrequent tanner control subjects who used tanning beds no more than 12 times a year.

Opioid blockade reduced UV preference in frequent tanners. With naltrexone administration, 4 of 8 frequent tanners, but no infrequent tanners, had withdrawal-like symptoms.

The major study limitation is the small sample size, leading the authors to recommend further studies.

"The finding was unexpected and is consistent with the hypothesis that frequent tanning may be driven in part by a mild dependence on opioids, most likely endorphins," says senior author Steven Feldman, MD, PhD, also from Wake Forest. "The nausea and jitteriness induced by the medication are consistent with symptoms of mild opiate withdrawal."

The National Institutes of Health partly funded this study, along with Galderma Laboratories, LP, and the Wake Forest University Women's Health Center of Excellence. The authors have disclosed no relevant financial disclosures.



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