Washington - This may give dedicated sun worshippers reason for pause. A new study suggests that regular tanning not only may raise the risk of skin cancer but also may be addictive.
A study found that chronic exposure to ultraviolet radiation triggers the release of endorphins - the so-called feel-good hormones - that function through the same biological pathway as highly addictive opiate drugs such as heroin and morphine.
The study involved laboratory mice, but the researchers said they believe the findings are applicable to people because the biological response of skin to UV radiation in mice is so similar to humans.
Regular UV radiation exposure led to physical dependence and addictive behaviour in the mice, the study found. The animals even exhibited withdrawal symptoms - shaking, tremors and teeth chattering - after being treated with a drug that blocked the endorphin activity, the researchers said.
Writing in the journal Cell, they said the addictive nature of UV exposure “may contribute to the relentless rise in skin cancer incidence in humans.”