A magazine for friends of the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

How does tanning change the brain?


Harmful in more ways than one.

Recent research suggests that frequent exposure to the ultraviolet rays used in tanning beds can be harmful not just physically but also psychologically. Martin A. Weinstock, MD, PhD, a professor of dermatology and of epidemiology at Brown, the chief of dermatology at the Providence VA Medical Center, and director of the Cutaneous Oncology Program and Pigmented Lesions at Brown Dermatology, studies melanoma and the link between indoor tanning and skin cancer risk. He explains the connection.

The dangers of exposure to indoor tanning, as in tanning parlors, tanning beds, etc., is due to the fact it’s an exposure to an addictive carcinogenic radiation. Not everyone who’s exposed gets addicted. It’s not nearly as  addicting as, for example, cigarette smoking or opioids. But in fact exposure to the UV lights used in indoor tanning causes a reaction in the brain that affects endogenous opioids produced in the body. Again, it’s not as addictive as taking some opium or a related compound, but it does have the potential for addiction.

The idea behind indoor tanning facilities is they get people to go once, then go a second time, to the point they’re using it on regular basis. That’s part of the danger associated with it: it can lead to a repetitive activity. The people who are the focus of the vast majority of marketing for indoor tanning are teenagers and young adults, and these facilities are often located in proximity to high schools. It’s pretty despicable that the owners are running cancer generating clubs, and trying to get these young people to repetitively use this potentially addictive and  carcinogenic exposure, which they pay for!


Comments are closed.