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

Photogallery US to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Expanded Ebola Effort

At US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Obama is to announce troop deployment, other details of US plans to fight Ebola outbreak More

Hong Kong Democracy Calls Spread to Macau

Macau and Hong Kong are China’s two 'special administrative regions' which gives them a measure of autonomy More

Kenyan Coastal Town Struggles With Deadly June Attacks

Three months after al-Shabab militants allegedly attacked their town, some Mpeketoni residents are still bitter, question who was really behind the assaults 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.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid