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College Tanning Bed Addicts: Why?

Is it possible that an alarming number of college students are addicted to tanning beds?Tanning bed
A new study suggests that students are overdosing on ultraviolet light on a regular basis, which means that visiting tanning salons isn't just a spring break phenomenon.

A study in The Archives of Dermatology reported this week that a significant number of students, who use tanning salons, appear to be addicts. Researchers interviewed 421 college students and found that 229 of them had used a tanning bed.

Here, however, is what surprised me. Between 31% and 39% of the tanning bed enthusiasts met the criteria of addicts. According to The New York Times, the researchers said that 78% of the frequent tanners acknowledged that they had failed when they tried to cut down on their trips to the tanning salon.

How in the world could someone be addicted to UV rays? A co-author suggested that tanning bed sessions might release endorphins, which can help them relax and cope with stress. Curiously enough, addicted tanners also tended to experience more anxiety and used alcohol and marijuana more frequently.

Roughly one million Americans -- about 70% women and girls -- visit tanning salons each day.

Knowing that tanning beds can cause skin cancer didn't stop these college students from visiting tanning beds. Here's what the co-author said:

"One hundred percent of them said they believe they can get skin cancer from tanning beds or booths, but it doesn't prevent them from spending time using them."
According to another study in Lancet Oncology, the risk of melanoma increases by 75% when people start using tanning beds before turning 30.

You don't need to be a tanning salon addict to be at risk skin cancer. People like me, who are whiter than a marshmallow, are at a higher risk to get skin cancer, which is the most common form of cancer. Living out here in San Diego, I reapply sun screen all day long.

Here are three things you can do to prevent skin cancer:

  • Use water-resistant sunblock with at least a SPF (sun protection factor) of 30. And don't just apply it when you're at the beach.
  • Make a doctor's appointment if you have find any asymmetrical growth that has an uneven border, an unusual color or has a diameter larger than a pencil eraser. Another warning sign is a growth that won't heal.
  • And stay away from tanning salons!
Lynn O'Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and she also writes at TheCollegeSolutionBlog. Follow her on Twitter.

Tanning bed image by Whatsername? CC 2.0.

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