Tanning dependence linked to other addictive behaviors – Study

Around 20 years ago a friend of mine was getting married and, as I was standing up, I thought it would be cool to have a tan. At the time, I was heavily into Abba music so I had no problem lying in the tanning bed listening to Abba while I tanned. Long story short, I sport a tan for the wedding and 15 years later had an operation ( my first of three) for skin cancer. I wasn’t addicted. Actually, this was my only ‘booth’ experience. Apparently, other folks aren’t so cool about tanning booths.

Despite the known dangers of exposure to ultraviolet light, many people continue to sunbathe and use indoor tanning beds with some users exhibiting a dependence to tanning. A new study from the Yale School of Public Health finds that such dependence is also associated with other addictive behaviors.


The study, recently published in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, surveyed 499 people who had previously sunbathed or used a tanning bed, and revealed that those who exhibited tanning dependence, also referred to as tanning addiction, were six times as likely to also be dependent on alcohol and three times as likely to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). (my emphasis)

“We hope our findings will help researchers design interventions specifically targeted to help people who are tanning dependent and thus reduce skin cancers,” said Brenda Cartmel, Ph.D., the paper’s lead author and senior research scientist and lecturer in the school’s Department of Chronic Disease Epidemiology.

The connections between tanning dependence and other disorders revealed by the study represent an opportunity for clinicians to address those related conditions. “People who are tanning dependent could also be assessed for SAD,” said Cartmel. “There are ways of addressing SAD other than indoor tanning. Regarding the alcohol dependence association, it may be possible that addressing that behavior could help address tanning dependence.”

The underlying mechanisms for the addiction to UV light are not yet fully understood. According to other studies, “The biological rationale for tanning dependence is that exposure to UV light results in both melanin, and endorphin production,” said Cartmel.

She also added that there was another interesting preliminary finding: those with tanning dependence were five times more likely to exhibit “exercise addiction.” She said it is too early, however, to determine the implication. “Exercise addiction” itself has really not been well researched,” she said.

“One hypothesis behind the finding is that people who exercise excessively do so because they are very aware of their appearance, and they also feel that being tanned improves their appearance. Or it may be that we will eventually find out that these individuals have more of an addictive or risk-taking personality type. If you have one type of dependence, you may be more likely to have another addiction,” Cartmel said.

YSPH researchers have previously found a strong association between indoor tanning and basal cell carcinoma, a type of non-melanoma skin cancer. In 2013, YSPH researchers testified before a state legislative committee about the health risks posed by indoor tanning. The legislature subsequently passed a law banning the use of indoor tanning beds by those under 17.

If you find yourself interested in reading more about skin cancer, check out my Page – Skin cancer facts in general (and my three skin cancer surgeries in particular.



Filed under skin cancer, skin care, tanning booths

6 responses to “Tanning dependence linked to other addictive behaviors – Study

  1. Now, if this were the case, that tanning and sunbathing were responsible for skin cancer, why does cancer occurrence plummet south of the Georgia border? I believe the tanning and sunbathing question is a lot deeper than simply “avoid the sun”. While vastly too much sun is obviously bad (we know the leather ladies to which I’m referring), too little is bad as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Samantha

    I used to go tanning once a week, 15 and later 12 minutes when they got new beds (who were stronger, I assume). When I saw a documentary about tanning and skin disease, in which a doctor stated that tanning once a week for 12 minutes would increase the odds of getting skin cancer by 50%, I immediately stopped tanning. I figured it’s not worth being tanned while lying in a coffin. A lot of people don’t know or realise the risks of tanning, it’s a good thing you wrote this post! I hope more people will see the light, if you’ll forgive my pun, and stop worrying abiut their skin tone and more about their skin health.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amen, Samantha! Thanks for sharing that and I am glad to hear that you heeded the facts about skin cancer. The surgery I had was no fun.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Samantha

        My Irish host father had skin cancer multiple times – no fun. If the documentary hadn’t scared me, his stories surely would have put me straight. Good for you to overcome it! Serves cancer right (I am a bit angry at any form of cancer right now, but am genuinely happy you recovered :))

        Liked by 1 person

  3. zoomtanmelanoma

    I’ve started a blog targeting tanning salons and Zoom Tan in particular for their peddling of cancer to young women. zoomtanmelanoma.wordpress.com


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