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Help! I'm addicted to tanning

New study shows that a surprising number of tanning booth frequenters have tried to cut back but can't.

By Karen Datko Apr 23, 2010 2:32PM

OK. I’m not addicted to tanning, but it seems that a surprising number of people are.


A new study featured in the Archives of Dermatology found that of 421 college students who were interviewed, 229 had used a tanning bed/booth -- on average, 23 times -- in the last year, and 31% to 39% of those students met criteria for addiction, depending on which addiction measure was used. Those students tanned on average 40 times in the last year, but some visited the salon 100 times.


“How in the world could someone be addicted to UV rays?” asked Lynn O'Shaughnessy, who wrote about the study for CBS MoneyWatch. She said:

A co-author suggested that tanning bed sessions might release endorphins, which can help them relax and cope with stress. Curiously enough, addicted tanners also tended to experience more anxiety and used alcohol and marijuana more frequently.

Sorry I stood you up

Not only that, but The New York Times reports:

In the study, 78% of the most frequent tanners said they had tried to cut down on indoor tanning but had been unable to. Frequent tanners reported missing scheduled plans because they had opted to use a tanning bed instead.

Also, every last one of the tanning enthusiasts said they were aware of the connection between tanning booths/beds and increased risk of skin cancer.

(Early this year, the Indoor Tanning Association, in a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, agreed to stop making false claims about safety and health.)

In other words, people are spending good money to increase their risk of cancer, and some can't seem to help themselves. We found per-session prices online in the $6 to $8 range. Andrea Dickson at our partner blog Wise Bread said she knows of women who spend $100 every few weeks to tan indoors. Andrea once purchased a three-month "high-pressure tanning package" for $600 (which did noticeable damage to her skin.)


My tanning experience was much less intense. I used a tanning booth regularly for several weeks years ago while planning a trip to Las Vegas. I had convinced myself that I needed a “foundation” tan before soaking up rays at the casino/hotel swimming pool. In fact, it was vanity. I lived in Alaska and my winter skin was fish-belly white.


If you must have tanned skin, the sunless tanning products applied to the skin seem to be OK. The Mayo Clinic says:

The active ingredient in most sunless tanning products is dihydroxyacetone (DHA). When applied to the skin, DHA reacts with dead cells in the outermost layer of skin to temporarily darken the skin's appearance. The coloring doesn't wash off, but it gradually fades as the dead skin cells slough off -- typically within a few days.

Sounds lovely, no?


Do you tan in the booth or bed? Why, if you know you’re increasing your risk of skin cancer? What do you think about the link between tanning and addiction?


Related reading:

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