A study of 400 university students and volunteers (University of Virginia) reveals that more than 25% of those surveyed reported symptoms of what health experts would call "tanning dependence." These behaviors were thought to have similarities, clinically, to alcohol and drug abuse. Another outcome of the study was the fact that this group also tended to be smokers and to emphasize "being slim."
We know that up to 90% of all skin cancers are related to sun exposure. Most people are educated enough to know that extensive sun exposure early in life has a strong risk for developing skin cancer later in life. Researchers wanted to see if this "risky behavior" might be connected to other risky behaviors, and indeed, they found the correlation to smoking and possibly to the "runner's high or endorphin boost that heavy exercise can give."
Clearly students are using tanning booths, irrespective of the fact that they know it can cause skin discolorations, premature wrinkling and cancer. And the researchers noted that the mean age of tanning booth use was age 17 - extremely alarming. Researchers noted that tanorexia might have biological underpinings to other addictions and hope to use this finding to help them find out more about the motivations for tanning so they can ultimately develop interventions.
A message to parents - really talk to your kids about sun and skin safety and realize that this tanning obsession may be going on, unbeknownst to them - after all, while the cat's away - the mice will play.
Published On: September 29, 2008