Tanorexia: Hooked on Tanning Salons

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Sun exposure boosts the body’s Vitamin D production, thereby promoting calcium absorption, but ultraviolet light from a tanning bed could be charging up your body like an addictive drug.

In fact, about one in five people who frequently visit tanning salons show classic signs of addiction, according to a recent survey.

Indoor tanners are often well aware of the risks of tanning, which include wrinkles and even skin cancer, notes the British Medical Journal and Guardian News. Yet tanners still expose themselves to UV light on a regular basis.

Some of the 421 college students surveyed even appeared to rely on indoor tanning to make them feel better, according to the study. Alcohol and drug users may be more likely to be addicted to indoor tanning, the study also found.

“I think indoor tanning is dumb,” University of Arizona student Allyson Lewis told the school’s paper, The Daily Wildcat. “It’s obviously not real and it’s more dangerous. People fake and bake because it’s faster and easier. I think people can become addicted to tanning just like they can become addicted to shopping.”

But tanning salon patrons aren’t the only ones who might have an addiction to the effects of bright light. Previous studies have shown that frequent beachgoers experience withdrawal if they go too long without tanning, according to WebMD.

Exposure to the sun produces a narcotic-like substance in the skin, and when tanners are given naltrexone, a drug that is used to block the effects of narcotics, frequent tanners experienced withdrawal symptoms like dizziness, nausea and shaking, symptoms that scientists say were not effects of the drug itself.

And doctors have long said sun exposure early in life can determine a person’s risk of developing skin cancer, causing federal regulators to consider a ban on tanning bed use for people under 18.

If the ban goes through, the best some tanning teens will get when it’s not beach weather will have to be a “tanning” iPhone (Stock Quote: AAPL) app.

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