Addicted To Tanning? It Might Be Genetic

For naturally paler complexions, sporting a sun-kissed glow can be a real boost. It can also transform into a dangerous addiction: this new study suggests that some people feel the lure of the sun’s rays much more strongly than others, and researchers at the Yale School of Public Health may have identified a gene that predisposes some people to tanning addiction, shedding light on the plight of sun-worshipers.

A Chance To Reduce Skin Cancer?

The genetic link to addiction has been well documented when it comes to substances like alcohol and drugs, but research into why some people crave the sun more than others is still relatively new. Yale researchers believe that identifying a genetic motivation for tanning could lead to therapies that help reduce the instances of skin cancer, which are occurring more often and in younger people every year.

Since 1975, cases of melanoma have tripled among Americans, causing many experts to question what biological factors could be at play. To find out, Brenda Cartmel and Yale researchers tested the saliva of almost 300 participants, some of whom were identified as tanning dependent based on the study’s criteria.

The Gene, Discovered

To qualify as dependent, participants had to display addictive behavior towards tanning like craving, loss of control and even withdrawal. Researchers then compared the gene variations between dependent and non-dependent participants and found that the groups differed in the expression of just one major gene: PTCHD2.

Complicating Chemical Factors

While the study’s findings are statistically promising, establishing a definitive genetic link to tanning addiction requires much more research. Other specialists have pointed to beta-endorphins (similar to a runner’s high) and vitamin D, not gene variants, as the main biological motivators behind seeking UV exposure. But, whether genetic or chemical, researchers have reached a consensus about the danger of habitually overexposing oneself to the sun’s harmful rays—and the need to figure out what drives this dangerous compulsion.

Image via Dr. No

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  • Arianna Kasabian

    This is fascinating!! I’m wondering if the addiction if for being in the sun/Vitamin D, or for turning a darker color (in which case people could simply safely use a self-tanner). I know I crave the sunlight/heat more than many of my friends, but don’t necessarily care about being tanner.

  • Lauren Berman

    Tanning is so bad for you but we keep doing it! No wonder why….Great insights…I love how this site brings in these educational items to the mix rather than just the plain “beauty” sites out there…. women need to get smarter!

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