Can one actually become dependent on tanning? Is it really possible to become addicted to using tanning beds? Tanorexia gets its name from similar characteristic pathologies such as those seen in other mental illnesses like substance abuse and body image disorders.
A study performed by Fox Chase Cancer Center examined this phenomena and discovered that "25% of those surveyed reported symptoms of tanning dependence, including symptoms similar to alcohol and drug-addicted individuals". This finding was revealed by using a modified version of a traditional substance abuse and dependence questionnaire that was administered to 400 students and other volunteers at Virginia Commonwealth University. The survey measured such items as tolerance to tanning, withdrawal symptoms, difficulty controlling tanning behaviour in spite of the knowledge of its negative consequences. Some of the questions included:
- Do you think you need to spend more and more time in the sun to maintain your perfect tan?
- Do you continue tanning so your tan will not fade?
- Does this [your belief that tanning can cause skin cancer] keep you from spending time in the sun or going to tanning beds?
The study investigated the participants’ level of intentional and incidental sun exposure, tanning booth use, and chemical sunless tanner usage as well as other health related habits like smoking and exercise.
Research confirmed that 27% of those studied were classified as dependent on tanning, 40% had used tanning booths and the mean age of onset for tanning booth use was only 17 years old. In addition, sun tanners and indoor tanners during the winter were found to be more closely linked to tanorexia than those who are solely indoor tanners. Most intriguing is that those found to be dependent on tanning were more likely to be either thin or smokers, suggesting probable links to risk taking behaviours. This discovery provides a new avenue for further research and development. It also confirms the wideheld belief that tanorexia really is an addiction.
Some Startling facts about skin cancer:
- According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer.
- Skin cancer accounts for half of all types of cancers.
- Over 1 million new cases are diagnosed yearly in the U.S.
- 90% of all skin cancers are associated with ultraviolet radiation
- Using a tanning bed once a month or more can increase your risk of skin cancer by more than half.
Addicted To Tanning Beds? 'Tanorexia' Common Among University Students
Tanorexics - Ellie Harrison
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