Published July 15, 2013
One in seven people diagnosed with skin cancer will continue to use tanning beds, suggesting that tanning may be addictive, CTV News reported.
In a new study published in JAMA Dermatology , researchers surveyed 178 skin cancer patients who had admitted to visiting tanning salons in the past. The patients were white or non-Hispanic and mostly female – and all the participants had been previously diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma, the most common form of all cancers.
Overall, 26 patients admitted to using indoor tanning beds within four years post-diagnosis. According to the survey’s results, the patients had tanned a median of 10 times within the past year –though some admitted to tanning as many as 20 times. Patients who had done the most tanning prior to their skin cancer diagnosis were much more likely to still be visiting tanning beds, according to CTV News.
Among the people who had returned to tanning salons post-diagnosis, 58 percent showed signs of ‘tanning dependence.’
Dr. Richard Langley, the president of the Canadian Dermatology Association, who was not involved in the study, noted that people who have been diagnosed with skin cancer have a higher risk of being diagnosed again within their lifetimes.
"A patient with a cancer diagnosis from a known carcinogen who continues to expose themselves to that carcinogen is often in denial," Langley told CTV News. "That's a prominent sign of dependency.”
Langley noted that some patients refuse to acknowledge the harmful properties of UV rays, while others blame their skin cancer solely on family history rather than to accept personal responsibility. Others seem to simply become addicted to the feeling of being tan.
"Patients will often describe that it feels good when they get sun exposure or go to a tanning salon … They talk about needing to do it and craving it, and when they don't do it, (they have) a feeling of withdrawal," Langley told CTV News.
Langley noted that research into the phenomenon of tanning addiction has been scarce, and he hopes the topic will continue to be explored. Tanning addiction is not included in the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).