Researchers report that some individuals may meet criteria for addiction to indoor tanning and are more likely to exhibit other addictive behaviors and affective disturbance. These results were recently published in the journal Archives of Dermatology.

Each year in the Unites States, an estimated 28 million people visit an indoor tanning facility, with a majority of visits made by women and teenage girls. In a survey of White adolescents (13 to 19 years old), 37% of the girls and 11% of the boys reported having used a tanning bed at least once. The bad news is that tanning beds—like the sun—expose the skin to ultraviolet radiation, and a growing body of research indicates that indoor tanners have an increased risk of skin cancer. Skin cancer prevention interventions include awareness of the link between indoor tanning and skin cancer risk. With the growing incidence of skin cancer, there is a great interest in promoting sun safety through educational interventions. Several studies have evaluated sun safety attitudes and behaviors in order to develop more effective prevention programs.

In this study 421 college students provided self-reported data on indoor tanning, substance use, anxiety, and depression. The researchers modified questionnaires used to screen for alcoholism and substance-related disorders to evaluate indoor tanning addiction. Standardized questionnaires were used to evaluate participant anxiety, depression, and substance use. Approximately 30% of the study participants were addicted to indoor tanning. In addition, participants who were addicted to indoor tanning experienced more anxiety symptoms as well as reported greater use of alcohol, marijuana, and other substances.

These researchers concluded that indoor tanning can be addicting for some individuals and these individuals may present with other addictive behaviors. This information may be useful in the development of more impactful skin cancer prevention programs that integrate education on indoor tanning addiction.


Mosher CE and Danoff-Burg S. Addiction to Indoor Tanning: Relation to Anxiety, Depression, and Substance Use. Archives of Dermatology. 2010;146:412-417.

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