August 25, 2005

Up to half of beachgoers addicted to sun

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Anywhere from one-quarter to
one-half of people catching rays at the beach may actually be
addicted to tanning, according to new study findings.

After interviewing 145 beachgoers, U.S. researchers found
that a significant portion met a series of addiction criteria
traditionally used to diagnose alcoholism and other substance
use disorders.

These findings suggest that regular sun-tanners may have a
new type of substance disorder involving ultraviolet light,
write the authors, led by Dr. Richard F. Wagner, Jr., of the
University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.

In the Archives of Dermatology, Wagner and his team note
that many people continue to sunbathe, despite widespread
warnings about skin damage and the risk of skin cancer.

So, is sun exposure addictive? To investigate, the
researchers interviewed sunbathers, asking questions designed
to measure addiction.

For instance, as part of the first set of addiction
criteria, beachgoers reported if they were annoyed when people
asked them to stop tanning, if they could not make themselves
cut down on sunbathing, felt guilty about their habit, and
wanted to tan as soon as they woke up.

As part of a second set of addiction criteria, the
researchers asked people to admit if they had missed a
commitment because of a burn, canceled a social or work
activity because they decided to tan, and if they prefer
sunbathing to all other activities. Beachgoers also had to
estimate how much time they typically spend tanning.

The researchers found that 26 percent of people were
addicted to tanning according to the first set of criteria, and
53 percent were addicted according to the second set of

"Anecdotal observations about patients who seemed 'addicted
to the sun' have been discussed in dermatology for years," the
authors note. They point out that the sun helps release
endorphins in the skin, and people may become addicted to the
feeling they get after tanning.

SOURCE: Archives of Dermatology, August 2005.