Tanning dependence linked to other addictive behaviours, a new study finds


Tanning dependence, also referred to as tanning addiction, might be associated with other addictive behaviours, according to findings of an investigation published online in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (Feb. 21, 2017).

This study involved 499 Caucasian non-Hispanic females and males of European ancestry who had previously participated in a case–control study of early-onset basal cell carcinoma.

The participants were asked to complete an online survey aimed at investigating the predictors of tanning dependence and other behaviours such as alcohol dependence, nicotine dependence, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), exercise ‘addiction’ and depression.

Data revealed that 24.4% of the respondents were classified as tanning dependent. In the multivariate model, women were more likely to be dependent on tanning [odds ratio (OR) 6.93; 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) (3.36–14.27)] than men. Alcohol dependence (OR 6.55: 95% CI 3.19–13.42), SAD (OR 2.77; 95% CI 1.26–6.09) and exercise ‘addiction’ (OR 5.47; 95% CI 1.15–26.06) were all significant predictors for tanning dependence, the authors wrote.

“We hope our findings will help researchers design interventions specifically targeted to help people who are tanning dependent and thus reduce skin cancers,” said Brenda Cartmel, PhD, the paper’s lead author and senior research scientist and lecturer in the school’s Department of Chronic Disease Epidemiology at Yale School of Public Health in New Haven, Conn.

The connections between tanning dependence and other disorders revealed by the study represent an opportunity for clinicians to address those related conditions. “People who are tanning dependent could also be assessed for SAD,” said Dr. Cartmel. “There are ways of addressing SAD other than indoor tanning. Regarding the alcohol dependence association, it may be possible that addressing that behaviour could help address tanning dependence.”

Tanning dependence, exercise addiction is also likely

The preliminary findings of the study found that the participants with reported tanning dependence were five times more likely to exhibit exercise addiction. Dr. Cartmel said that it is too early, however, to determine the implication.

“Exercise addiction itself has really not been well researched,” she said. “One hypothesis behind the finding is that people who exercise excessively do so because they are very aware of their appearance, and they also feel that being tanned improves their appearance. Or it may be that we will eventually find out that these individuals have more of an addictive or risk-taking personality type. If you have one type of dependence, you may be more likely to have another addiction.”

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