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Even Skin Cancer Won't Stop Tanning Addicts

One in seven tanning bed users return to the habit after a skin cancer diagnosis, a study finds.

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Continuing a behavior after it gives you
cancer may be a sign of addiction. Photo via

By Bryan Le

07/15/13

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Is tanning addictive? An alarming one in seven tanning bed fans will return for a hit of UV rays even after getting skin cancer, according to a new study published in JAMA Dermatology. Researchers found that 26 of 178 Connecticut tanning bed users report returning to indoor tanning within four years after being diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma—a common form of skin cancer. The reported median of tanning bed use was 10 times a year, though a few subjects reported going as many as 20 times. Though most people fully recover from basal cell carcinoma, the surgery to remove the affected skin is painful and can be disfiguring—especially if it takes place on the face. But many still returned to tanning salons after the surgery, especially those who had tanned the most before getting skin cancer. Among those who returned to tanning salons, 58% showed signs of “tanning dependence"—spending excessive amounts of time in the beds, and under higher intensity rays. "A patient with a cancer diagnosis from a known carcinogen who continues to expose themselves to that carcinogen is often in denial," says Dr. Richard Langley of the Canadian Dermatology Association. "That's a prominent sign of dependency." Langley says many of his patients describe "needing" to tan and "craving it," and "when they don't do it, a feeling of withdrawal."

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