Researchers have identified a link between sun-seeking behaviour and specific genes known to be involved with addiction and certain behavioural and personality traits—a finding they say suggests that new approaches may be required for effective promotion of sun-protection.
Published online ahead of print in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology (Sept. 10, 2020), the study used health information from 2,500 twins from TwinsUK, the largest registry of twins in the U.K. The information included sun-seeking behaviour and genetics.
The investigators found that sets of identical twins were more likely to have a similar sun-seeking behaviour than non-identical twins, which suggested genetics play a key role.
Further analysis of data from 260,000 participants from other cohorts revealed five key genes involved in sun-seeking behaviour. The authors of the paper note that those five genes have previously in the literature been linked to risk-taking and addiction, including smoking, cannabis and alcohol consumption and number of sexual partners. As well, those genes have been associated with behavioural and personality traits, cognitive function and educational attainment.
“When we look at the genes involved in sun-seeking behaviour, we see a clear link with genes previously associated with addiction and various risky behaviours. It would be interesting to investigate the connections between sun-seeking and other addictions and the genetic regulation and biology behind them,” said lead author Marianna Sanna, in a press release. Sanna is a PhD student in the Department of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology, King's College London, U.K.
“Our results suggest that tackling excessive sun exposure or use of tanning beds might be more challenging than expected, as it is influenced by genetic factors,” said senior author Dr. Mario Falchi in the release. “It is important for the public to be aware of this predisposition, as it could make people more mindful of their behaviour and the potential harms of excessive sun exposure.” Dr. Falchi is a senior lecturer at King's College London, and head of bioinformatics for the School of Life Course Sciences at the school.