A new research has found tanning pulls off an addictive reward-and-reinforcement trigger in the brain like alcohol and drugs.
This could explain why some people continue to use tanning beds despite the increased risk of developing melanoma, the most lethal form of skin cancer, the research said.
In this study, participants used tanning beds on two separate occasions: one time they were exposed to ultraviolet radiation and another time special filters blocked exposure to ultraviolet radiation.
Participants did not know on which session they received the real or the filtered ultraviolet exposure. At each visit, participants were asked before and after each session how much they felt like tanning. Participants were also administered a compound that allowed scientists to measure brain blood flow while they were tanning.
The researchers found that the brain activity and corresponding blood flow was similar to that seen in people addicted to drugs and alcohol.
"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," said Dr. Bryon Adinoff, UT Southwestern professor of psychiatry and senior author of the study.
"The implication is, 'If it's rewarding, then could it also be addictive?' It's an important question in the field," he added.
The study will be published in Addiction Biology.