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Are Your Clients Addicted to Indoor Tanning? With Exclusive Commentary About How to Wean Clients From Unhealthy Tanning Behaviors

Posted: September 6, 2011

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The new study involved seven frequent tanners who said they had used tanning beds an average of about 27 of the previous 90 days.

The researchers had each participant use a tanning bed for 10-minute sessions under two conditions: in one session, the tanner was exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, while in the other session special filters blocked such exposure. Volunteers did not know if the tanning session involved UV radiation or not.

Participants were asked before and after each session how much they felt like tanning. They also received an intravenous compound that allowed the researchers to measure brain blood flow during their tanning sessions.

The result: Indoor tanning sessions that involved UV radiation triggered activation of the brain's dorsal striatum region and the medial orbitofrontal cortex, each of which plays a role in reward and reinforcement. Sessions where UV radiation was blocked showed less of this type of brain activation, the team found.

The findings make sense to Heidi Waldorf, MD, an associate clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. "Like other addicts, 'tanorexics' continue to tan indoors and out despite clear warnings of the dangers," she said. "In my practice, I've seen women continue to tan after skin cancer surgery and after spending thousands of dollars on cosmetic procedures to rejuvenate their photodamaged skin."