Tanning addiction may be in your genes

Posted: January 16, 2015 at 7:44 pm

Snowbirds who flock south in winter in search of the warmth of the sun, listen up:

People who carry a particular gene variant may be more likely to develop an "addiction" to tanning, a preliminary study suggests.

The idea that ultraviolet light can be addictive -- whether from the sun or a tanning bed -- is fairly new. But recent research has been offering biological evidence that some people do develop a dependence on UV radiation, just like some become dependent on drugs.

"It's probably a very small percentage of people who tan that become dependent," said study author Brenda Cartmel, a researcher at the Yale School of Public Health.

But understanding why some people become dependent is important, Cartmel said, so that refined therapies can be developed.

"Ultimately, what we want to do is prevent skin cancer," she said. "We are seeing people getting skin cancer at younger and younger ages, and some of that is definitely attributable to indoor tanning."

In the United States, the rate of melanoma has tripled since 1975 -- to about 23 cases per 100,000 people in 2011, according to government statistics. Melanoma is the least common, but most serious, form of skin cancer.

Cartmel said that, since genes are known to sway the risk of addiction in general, her team wanted to see if there are any gene variants connected to tanning dependence.

So the investigators analyzed saliva samples from 79 people with signs of tanning dependence and 213 people who tanned but were not addicted.

From a starting point of over 300,000 gene variations, the researchers found that just one gene clearly stood out. The two groups differed in variants of a gene called PTCHD2.

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Tanning addiction may be in your genes

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