Healthy Living

Apr 20, 2010 2:23 PM by Bethany Tucker & Erika Edwards

Indoor tanning could become an addiction, study says


We've heard about addictions to alcohol, drugs, even eating and sex. Now, you can add indoor tanning to the list.

The tanning beds are on at salons all over the country, as young people prepare for prom, graduation or that spring trip to the beach. A risky beauty treatment, as studies have shown, tanning even without burning can increase the odds for skin cancer. But for some, this isn't just about looks. They're addicted.

"An addiction, among other things, when you do it, it gives you a hit, you feel good. There are a number of things out there - alcohol, drugs, and now it turns out, tanning booths," said Michael McKee, Ph.D., psychologist for the Cleveland Clinic.

A new study of college students in the northeast find nearly a third of those who tan indoors meet the criteria for a tanning addiction, much like an addiction to alcohol. "They're people who seem to have some addictive personalities," said McKee. Those same people were also more likely to indulge in alcohol and drugs. They were also more prone to anxiety and tended to seek out the tanning booth to make themselves feel better.

So the question becomes, how do you stop the cycle? Psychologists say telling addicted tanners their habit could lead to potentially deadly skin cancer isn't enough. "You are absolutely immortal and invulnerable when you're in college. I mean who worries about skin cancer when they're in college? So that's not going to work," said McKee.

Experts say it would be more effective to treat the anxiety directly, and suggest it may be useful to screen tanners about their motives before a bad habit becomes an addiction.

Part of the new health care reform law includes a 10 percent tax on indoor tanning. That goes into effect on July first.

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