Sunbed tans are addictive warn researchers

Around a third of people who use sunbeds may become addicted to the tanning effects, a study suggests.Researchers also found those sunbed-users users who were addicted were also more likely to suffer from anxiety and more prone to alcohol and drug use.The US researchers said tackling these underlying problems may be the key to encouraging people to quit using sunbeds and cut their skin cancer risk.A bill to ban sunbeds for under-18s was recently passed by the House of Lords.The study published in the Archives of Dermatology looked at 421 college students, 229 of whom said they used sunbeds or sun lamps.

The sunbed-users had visited the salon an average of 23 times in the past year.The researchers asked these individuals to fill out questionnaires designed to screen for addictive behaviours.Depending on the definition used, between 30% and 39% of sunbed users were classed as being addicted.These people reported feeling guilty about using sunbeds too much and wanting to cut down on usage, for example.

Further questioning showed that students who met the criteria for addiction to sunbeds were more likely to show signs of anxiety and use drugs such as alcohol and marijuana.The researchers from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York said steps to reduce people’s risk of skin cancer should address the addictive nature of sunbeds and the potential relationship to other addictions.

“Despite ongoing efforts to educate the public about the health risks associated with natural and non-solar UV radiation, recreational tanning continues to increase among young adults,” they warned.They added that research should look at whether screening for anxiety and depression screening would be useful for people who use sunbeds frequently.

But the chairman of the Sunbed Association, Gary Lipman, discounted the findings, saying: “I am not a scientist but I have read enough scientific studies over the years to be able to see immediately that this one has little if any scientific merit.”Cancer Research UK had been among those campaigning for a ban for under-18s after a study showed some 250,000 11-to-17-year-olds in England are risking skin cancer by using sunbeds.

Scotland has already put legislation in place to restrict the use of sunbeds to adults, and Wales has proposed a similar move with Northern Ireland planning a consultation on the issue.Sarah Woolnough, Cancer Research UK’s head of policy, said the findings on addiction to indoor tanning highlighted the importance of the ban on sunbed use by under-18s.

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