Tanning addiction just as dangerous as narcotic addiction - AmericaNowNews.com

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Tanning addiction just as dangerous as narcotic addiction

Despite skin cancer warnings, nearly 30 million Americans use tanning beds on a regular basis. A new study at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center reports that many of these "tan fans" experience brain activity that mimic the patterns of drug dependency.

You might remember how New Jersey woman, Patricia Krentcil, also known as the "tanning mom" thrust extreme tanning into the public's eye. But now medical experts say when tanning becomes an obsession, it's no longer just a fashion statement. For some people, it's an addiction.

That's because scientists have determined that UV rays trigger the release of pleasure inducing chemicals in the brain. And frequent tanners might suffer a withdrawal of sorts when they don't get the rays.

Dr. Lyndsay Elliott is a clinical psychologist who says some compulsive tanners are like anorexics who actually suffer from a body dysmorphic disorder called "tanorexia."

"It's the same thing with seasonal affective disorder where in the wintertime when the sun is not out, people become more depressed," says Elliott.

Dr. Lyndsay Elliott explains, "With tanorexia, there's this very distorted belief that they are much more pale than their skin actually is."

Katie Donnar was 12-years-old when she started using a tanning bed on a regular basis. "By the time I was 15-years-old, I was tanning four times a week for about six months a year," says Donnar. 

For her 17th birthday, Katie's parents surprised her with a tanning bed of her very own. Two years later, she was diagnosed with skin cancer. Her father broke the news.

She says, "My dad asked me to sit down. He's a really strong guy, so I've never actually seen him cry until this moment. He sat down and he said, 'Katie, the doctor called. You have malignant melanoma."

Fortunately, the cancer was caught early and Katie survived. Today, she works with Outrun the Sun - a melanoma research foundation - to help educate others about the dangers of tanning beds.

"What I want every America Now viewer to know is the very first time you step into a tanning bed, your risk of developing malignant melanoma is increased by 75%," Donnar explains. 

If you think someone is suffering from tanorexia, here are some signs to look out for: Obsession with their skin tone, if tanning becomes a priority in their lives, and if they can't tan they become anxious and irritable.

Remember that UV light exposure leads to cancer, and that's the reason why cancer survivor Katie Donnar destroyed her tanning bed so no one else could ever use it.

"Honestly, all I could see of it was a coffin. That's what it looked like to me," Donnar says. 

The Outrun the Sun Foundation reports that melanoma is raising higher than any other cancer. You can even get melanoma in your eyes. So remember to wear your sun block and sunglasses.

Copyright 2013 America Now. All rights reserved. 

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