I have vivid memories of skipping high school on sunny days in June (don’t’ tell my mom) to tan with coconut baby oil on the roof of my best friend’s house. Why? Because the roof was black and would attract the sun’s rays, the baby oil would help us get a tan quicker, and it was hotter because we were closer to the sun. All logical reasons — at least for teenagers.
FIT LIFE: Can you become addicted to tanning?
Fast forward 30 years, and we all know that indoor and outdoor tanning can lead to premature aging such as wrinkles and brown spots, eye damage and skin cancer, just to name a few. According to a review published in JAMA Dermatology, there are more skin cancer cases due to indoor tanning than there are lung cancer cases due to smoking.
Despite the well-publicized risks of skin damage and cancer from too much sun, people continue to soak up ultraviolet radiation outdoors and in tanning salons. In fact, University of California researchers reported that 35 percent of American adults and 55 percent of university students have tried indoor tanning.
Common reasons why people state they tan are to look more attractive and “healthier” – but could they be addicted?
The idea that ultraviolet (UV) light can be addictive — whether from the sun or a tanning bed — is fairly new. However, recent research offers biological evidence that some people develop an addiction to UV radiation, just like some become dependent on drugs. According to a study published in the journal Addiction Biology, people who frequently use tanning beds had changes in brain activity during their tanning sessions that mimic the patterns of drug addiction. The researchers found that several parts of the brain that play a role in addiction were activated when the subjects were exposed to UV rays. These findings may help explain why some people continue to tan despite awareness about risks such as skin cancer and premature aging.
And researchers at the Yale Cancer Center discovered a link between tanning addiction (both fake and natural) and other addictive behaviors such as exercise and alcohol. Their results reported this year of a survey of 499 people who exhibited tanning addiction found they were six times more likely to develop an addiction to alcohol and five times more likely to be addicted to exercise.
Tanning addiction is not classified as a disorder because more research is needed. In the meantime, remember to use sunscreen when exposed to UV rays. And as with anything — moderation is the key.
ASK FIT LIFE
Can I get too much sleep?
Harvard’s Nurses’ Health Study found that people who slept nine to 11 hours a night developed memory problems and were more likely to develop heart disease than people who slept a solid eight. Other studies have linked oversleep to a host of medical problems including diabetes, depression, obesity and even early death. About 4 percent of the population oversleeps, with people most at risk being those who work odd hours, have an uncomfortable sleep situation or have a sleeping disorder.
Fit Life, by fitness and healthy aging expert Heather Hausenblas, associate dean of the School of Applied Health Sciences and Professor of Kinesiology in Jacksonville University’s Brooks Rehabilitation College of Healthcare Sciences, is an occasional column in the The Florida Times-Union. E-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on JU’s Department of Kinesiology, visit http://ju.edu/chs.