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Why Do Young Women Get Addicted to Indoor Tanning?

TUESDAY, June 18, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- A combination of depression and genetic risk may fuel an addiction to indoor tanning.

That's the conclusion of a new study out of Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in Washington, D.C.

For the study, researchers surveyed nearly 300 women who used indoor tanning beds, sunlamps or sun booths, and analyzed DNA samples. The women were white and between 18 and 30 years of age.

The risk of tanning addiction doubled in those who had mutations in genes related to dopamine activity; dopamine is key to the brain's pleasure and reward system. Those mutations, coupled with others linked to depression, increased the risk of tanning addiction by up to 13 times.

"By demonstrating that genes in behavioral reward pathways are associated with tanning addiction, we are providing stronger evidence that tanning addiction is a cancer risk behavior in need of intervention," lead author Darren Mays said in a Georgetown news release. "This finding adds to a growing body of evidence from animal studies and neuroimaging studies that have been done in humans."

Mays is an associate professor of oncology. He's now beginning a study into the use of text messages as a way to help young women quit if they are addicted to tanning.

Exposure to ultraviolet light can cause skin cancers, including deadly melanoma. Indoor tanning accounts for 10% of skin cancers, and this year nearly 100,000 Americans will be diagnosed with melanoma.

The report was published online June 11 in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

More information

To learn more about the dangers of indoor tanning, visit the American Academy of Dermatology.

SOURCE: Georgetown University, news release, June 11, 2019

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