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Tanning May Be Addictive

Posted: April 14, 2006
Tanning's effects may be more than skin deep.

A new study finds that frequent users of tanning beds experience "feel-good" effects similar to those of some addictive drugs.

Researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center say the ultraviolet (UV) light in tanning beds appears to trigger production of endorphins, brain chemicals linked to pain relief and euphoric feelings.

"We had previously shown that ultraviolet light has an effect on mood that tanners value," study lead author Dr. Mandeep Kaur said in a prepared statement. "Now, in this small study, we've shown that some tanners actually experience withdrawal symptoms when the 'feel-good' chemicals are blocked."

The study included eight frequent tanners (eight to 15 times a month) and eight infrequent tanners (no more than 12 times a year). The participants were given either a placebo or a drug (naltrexone) that blocks the effects of endorphins and other opioids. They then used both UV and non-UV tanning beds.