Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Addicted to Indoor Tanning?

As the days grow longer and colder, many begin to dream of a warm summer day or a Caribbean island inhabited by descendants of pirates or Johnny Depp.  And others simply head down the street to the closest tanning center.   If you or someone you care about is doing this on a regular basis, you might want to think about why.

In a 2010 collaborative study from SUNY Albany and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the researchers report the tanning habits and psychological profiles of over 400 students.  What they found is notable.  Nearly 40% of the 237 students who used indoor tanning met criteria for addiction to the behavior. 

Students in this subgroup also reported more use of controlled substances (excluding alcohol).  In addition, students who met the criteria for addiction to indoor tanning were twice as likely to have symptoms of anxiety or depression than non-addicted students.  This study suggests that students who may have a predilection for addictive behaviors of all kinds are likely to add tanning to the list. 

Given the origin of this study at Sloan Kettering it's not surprising that the authors ironic conclusion is that treating an underlying mood or anxiety disorder "may be a necessary step in reducing skin cancer risk among those who frequently tan indoors."   Will tanning salons soon be required to add some disclaimer about unstable mental health to the consent form people sign acknowledging their right to cancer?

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