Study Shows Links Between Tanning and Addictive Behavior

New research offers more evidence that some may be hooked on a perfect tan.

ByABC News
April 19, 2010, 6:25 PM

April 20, 2010— -- Increased regulation and warnings about the dangers of habitual tanning have not curbed visits to tanning booths, much to the chagrin of doctors and public health advocates.

Now, a growing body of evidence suggests that, as with cigarettes, simply knowing the behavior is bad isn't going to stop people if the behavior is addictive. A new study, released Monday in the journal Archives of Dermatology, adds to that body of literature that connects regular visits to a tanning booth with addictive behavior.

The researchers say the study falls short of proving such a link beyond a shadow of a doubt. But for some, the idea that tanning is addictive makes sense.

"I absolutely believe that I was addicted to tanning," said 27-year-old melanoma survivor Kristi Setzer, who said she began a tanning regimen to look good for her wedding in 2006.

"I felt that I would look thinner and not blend in with my wedding dress," Setzer, now a law student, recalled.

After going tanning, she estimates, almost every day for a year before her wedding, she continued afterward, despite better than average knowledge of its possible effects.

"I knew that melanoma had serious consequences," Setzer said. "My uncle actually died after a battle with melanoma, but even though I knew that, I felt compelled to go tan.

"Even after my wedding I continued indoor tanning until August of 2008, when I received my diagnosis of melanoma," she said.

While physicians agree that tanning can have severe and negative effects, a number of things need to be known before it can be considered a true addiction.