Tanning can be 'addictive', new study claims

American researchers suggest UV light 'feel good' chemicals can lead to addictive behaviour

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The Independent Online

Can't stay away from the sun? Well, there might be a scientific reason for it.

According to new a study, sunbathing can be "addictive" because ultraviolet light releases "feel-good" chemicals that can lead to dependence.

For six weeks, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, exposed a group of mice with a shaved back to 30-minute daily sessions of midday Florida sun.

They found the tanning sessions produced "proopiomelanocortin", a type of protein which stimulates the tanning process, but also led to increased levels of beta-endorphins or pleasure chemicals.

They also noted behavioural changes in mice which had been exposed to sunlight, highlighting that they developed withdrawal symptoms, including jitteriness and shaking, when administered drugs to block the effects of the "happy" chemicals.

"This suggests that ultraviolet radiation can have significant opiate-like effects in a broad sense – probably in many species, not only in laboratory mice," said David Fisher, director of the Cutaneous Biology Research Center, who led the study, adding that the results "may underlie some of the dangerous consequences of UV radiation in man."