Repeated sunburns may increase your risk of skin cancer.
Repeated sunburns may increase your risk of skin cancer.

Dieing for a tan

By ANN-MARIE MAY

SARAH, 14, thinks she looks unhealthy when she isn't sporting a tan. That is why she hates winter and can't wait for the school holidays to begin so she can spend 'every spare minute' at the beach or by the pool. "I love having tanned skin. I look and feel better," she said. Turning 15 at the end of this month, Sarah admits to being aware of the dangers of the sun, but doesn't think she is at risk. According to the Cancer Council, two people aged 55 and over die every day from melanoma in Australia with repeated sunburns significantly increasing your risk of skin cancer. "We learn about all the dangers at school, and mum has had a couple of skin cancers removed. I always put sunscreen on my face, and never let myself get burnt red-raw," she said. "But not being in the sun, and having white skins depresses me. Mum won't let me go to the solarium until I'm older, so in winter I sometimes use a fake tan." So is Sarah addicted to sunbaking? A US study has found that tanning is an addictive behaviour, and that young women are the most likely to succumb to the dangers. The study found people who experience the compulsion to sunbake, commonly referred to as 'tanorexic', display addictive tendencies similar to alcoholics or compulsive gamblers. There have even been suggestions to set up support groups in Australia to address the problem. Previous studies suggest that tanning generates brain chemicals known as endorphins, which could be responsible for the addiction effects. Endorphins are responsible for feelings of euphoria and decreased sensitivity to pain. More recent studies have not confirmed the association between tanning and endorphins. "I don't know if I'm addicted. I have never thought about it that way. It (the sun) does make me feel happier and I spend a lot of time in it, so maybe I am. But I don't think it is a problem," Sarah said.



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