Richard G. Petty, MD

Sun Bed Addiction

One of the most pernicious claims of some purveyors of medical misinformation is that there is no connection between exposure to sunlight and skin cancer.

I just saw that repeated by someone on an infomercial promoting his latest book. The person speaking was a marketer with, I understand, no scientific or medical training. The fact is that exposure to ultraviolet light has been shown to damage DNA in cells grown in culture in the laboratory, and the pattern of damage is exactly what we predict would cause cells to become malignant.

There are protocols for transforming normal cells into malignant ones using ultraviolet light alone. We also know from epidemiological studies that exposure to sunlight is linked to the development of skin cancer. The best predictors are both the number of hours exposed, and the number of times that the skin has been burned. Despite this information, there was a 300 percent increase in the number of indoor tanners in the United States between 1986 and 1996.

So why do people continue to use sun beds? Apart from vanity, there is now increasing evidence of another factor. Earlier this year investigators from the University of Minnesota published a study suggesting that the over-use of indoor tanning by adolescents could be addictive. The age at initiation of usage, the frequency of use and the relationship between use and difficulty in quitting indoor tanning are consistent with other potentially addictive behaviors taken up during adolescence.

Now a team from Wake Forest University in North Carolina has published a small study  in which they showed that in four of eight frequent tanners, giving them the opioid antagonist naltrexone caused them to experience symptoms very much like those that we associate with drug withdrawal. I recently came across a case of a young person who was tanning obsessively, at least once a day. It turned out that she also had a substance abuse problem. Though this study is small and preliminary, it certainly seems to fit with clinical observations.

We already knew that ultraviolet light can elevate mood: it has been known for many years that in people with bipolar disorder, they are more likely to become manic as the days become longer and they are exposed to more sunlight. There is also some evidence that ultraviolet light may elevate testosterone levels, which is one of many possible reasons why some people report increased libido while vacationing at the beach. (I feel sure, gentle reader, that you can come up with a long list of other reasons for that observation…)

Technorati tags:  , ,

About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!

logo logo logo logo logo logo