"We had previously shown that ultraviolet light has an effect on mood that tanners value," said Mandeep Kaur, M.D., lead author. "Now, in this small study, we've shown that some tanners actually experience withdrawal symptoms when the 'feel-good' chemicals are blocked."
The research reported in the April issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology involved eight frequent tanners and eight infrequent tanners. Frequent tanners were those who tan eight to 15 times a month, or more than necessary to maintain a tan. Infrequent tanners were those who use tanning beds no more than 12 times a year.
The research was designed to test the hypothesis that exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light may produce endorphins, brain chemicals that are linked to pain relief and euphoric feelings, and could play a role in tanning behavior. UV light occurs naturally in sunlight and is responsible for the tanning and burning effects of the sun. Artificial UV light is used in tanning beds and sunlamps.
In 2004, the Wake Forest researchers reported on a study in which participants had tanning sessions in two identical-looking tanning beds. Tanners spent half of each session in one bed, which used UV light, and half in the other, which didn't. Mood was measured before and after each tanning exposure. The results revealed greater relaxation and lower tension after UV exposure compared to non-UV exposure.
In the current study, the researchers hoped to discover whether endorphins could be driving the tanning behavior. Half of tanners were given an inactive drug and half were given a drug to block the effects endorphins and other opioids, which include narcot
Contact: Karen Richardson
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center