Despite the NHS warning us constantly that too much exposure to UV rays through prolonged use of sunbeds is bad for us; around 3 million of us Brits still use them. It seems difficult to understand when we’re told it can increase our risk of developing skin cancer that we haven’t given up the habit.
Scientists from the University of Texas in the US believe they have unearthed the reason why we are so addicted to them. Research has shown that using sunbeds triggers an addictive reaction in the brain.
A group of volunteers underwent two sessions on tanning beds, during one they were exposed to the UV rays whilst special filters blocked them on the other session. The participants were also given a compound that allowed the scientists to monitor blood flow to the brain and were not aware of which session they were having.
The results showed that those volunteers who were exposed to the UV rays showed similar brain activity and corresponding blood flow to people who are addicted to alcohol or drugs. Scientists concluded that those who frequently use sunbeds are doing so to feed a ‘reward and reinforcement’ habit as any other addict does.
Dr Bryon Adinoff stated “Using tanning beds has rewarding effects in the brain so people may feel compelled to persist in the behaviour even though it’s bad for them. The implication is – if it’s rewarding, then could it also be addictive? – It’s an important question in the field.”
The next step for the scientists is to create technology to enable them to study in greater detail the brain activity in frequent sunbed users.
The British Association of Dermatologists recommends that people do not use sunbeds at all as over 2,000 people die every year in England and Wales due to melanoma, and people under 30 who use a sunbed 10 times are year are eight times more likely to develop malignant melanoma.