Tanning bed users' brains like addicts'

Aug. 10, 2011 at 9:36 PM
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DALLAS, Aug. 10 (UPI) -- Despite knowing tanning beds can increase the risk of skin cancer, many people still use them, and U.S. researchers say an addictive quality may be at play.

Dr. Bryon Adinoff, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, says about 120,000 new cases of melanoma are diagnosed in the United States each year, and while public knowledge of these dangers has grown, so has the regular use of tanning beds.

U.S. adults age 30 and younger use a tanning bed 10 times a year have eight times the risk of developing malignant melanoma, Adinoff, the study's senior author, says.

Adinoff and colleagues had study participants use tanning beds on two separate occasions: one time they were exposed to ultraviolet radiation and another time special filters blocked exposure to ultraviolet radiation.

The participants did not know if they got the real or the filtered ultraviolet exposure. Participants were also administered a compound that allowed scientists to measure brain blood flow while they were tanning.

Adinoff, who is also a staff physician at the Veterans Affairs North Texas Health Care System, says the brain activity and corresponding blood flow tracked in those using the tanning bed was similar to that seen in people addicted to drugs and alcohol.

"Using tanning beds has rewarding effects in the brain so people may feel compelled to persist in the behavior even though it's bad for them," Adinoff says in statement.

The findings are published online ahead of the print edition of Addiction Biology.

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