A 2004 study conducted at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center and published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology
was the first to indicate that repeated users of tanning beds might be
hooked on more than dark skin. Two identical-looking tanning beds were
used in the study but just one was equipped with ultraviolet light
(UV). Exposure to the UV light produced relaxation and lower tension
levels, while the other tanning bed did not. The researchers theorized
that the UV exposure caused the release of endorphins, which are known
to improve mood and promote restfulness.
Recently the same team at Wake Forest
updated their research. A drug is now available that blocks the effect
of endorphins and other opiates. When this was administered to the
frequent tanners, they no longer enjoyed their time at the parlor. In
fact, some developed nausea and jitteriness, consistent with withdrawal
from mild opiate addiction. Infrequent tanners, also part of the study,
did not develop these symptoms.
This clearly proves that many people
enjoy tanning beds because of the UV light-endorphins connection. Yet
excessive UV exposure, either from the sun or salon, damages the
genetic material in skin and increases the likelihood of cancer and
premature aging of the skin.
In spite of all the warnings from
dermatologists, there has been a 300 percent increase in the number of
indoor tanners in the United States between 1986 and 1996. You may feel
great and end up with bronze skin, but the dangers and the addictive
nature of the activity should be taken into account. Dermatologists
recommend application of self-tanning agents directly to the skin
rather than excessive UV exposure if a darkened skin is desired.