News / Health

Study: Tanning Might Be Addictive

Sunbathers crowd the Ostia beach west of Rome on June 8, 2014.
Sunbathers crowd the Ostia beach west of Rome on June 8, 2014.
Jessica Berman
Why do some people spend so much time in the sun, despite knowing that excessive exposure puts them at risk for skin cancer?
 
A new study suggests they are addicted to ultraviolet light, whether from the sun or tanning beds. UV light raises levels of beta-endorphins, so-called "feel good" chemicals in the body.
 
Beta-endorphins, the body's natural opioids, are stimulated by drugs such as heroin and cocaine. They are also released into the bloodstream by smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol, encouraging the addictive behavior.
 
Researchers have found that ultraviolet light may stimulate the same protein pathway, causing a slavish devotion to sunbathing or regular trips to the tanning parlor.
 
Every day, for six weeks, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital exposed a group of shaved mice to UV light that was the equivalent of spending 20 to 30 minutes in the midday Florida sun. The dose of ultraviolet light was calculated to induce skin tanning but not sunburn.
 
Dermatologist David Fisher, director of the Cutaneous Biology Research Center at Massachusetts General in Boston, led the study, which found that blood levels of beta-endorphin rose significantly in the exposed mice.
 
Fisher says the beta-endorphin molecule acts like an anesthetic so that mice exposed to ultraviolet did not respond to light touch or heat, compared to control animals. When the exposed mice were given a drug that blocked the natural opioid pathway, they became agitated and began shaking and squeaking through chattering teeth.
 
Addicted to light

It appeared that the mice, like drug addicts, had become hooked on UV light.
 
Fisher said the UV exposure resulted "in behavioral changes, in addiction, in withdrawal symptoms. And this suggests that ultraviolet radiation can have significant opiate-like effects in a broad sense – probably in many species, not only in laboratory mice."
 
The exposure "perhaps may underlie some of the dangerous consequences of UV radiation in man," Fisher added.
 
Sunlight is a primary source of vitamin D, a nutrient essential for skeletal formation and bone strength. Fisher said it's possible the addictive nature of sunbathing is a throwback to prehistoric times when sunlight was the only source of vitamin D and periods of daylight were short. 
 
Could taking vitamin D supplements, which are cheap and easily available today, treat a sunbathing addiction?
 
"We don't know," Fisher said. "Could it be that vitamin D itself participates in some of these behavioral effects? That's a very interesting speculation. It happens to be something we are looking at at the same time."
 
The study suggesting the potential addictiveness of ultraviolet sunlight is published in the journal Cell.

You May Like

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs