Sunbeds may be addictive, warn researchers

In collaboration with Adfero

Young people who regularly use sunbeds often display signs of addiction to using them, a US study has found.

Scientists at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre and the University of Albany, State University of New York conducted a study to assess the prevalence of addiction to sunbed use among college students.

They were also interested to see whether people who regularly used sunbeds were more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs, or to display signs of anxiety or depression.

The researchers recruited 421 college students between September and December 2006 and gave all of them two questionnaires.

These were based on two existing questionnaires to screen for alcoholism and substance-related disorders, but were modified to assess addiction to indoor tanning.

Just over half of the students had used a sunbed in the past and about a third showed signs of being addicted to them.

Students who showed signs of addiction on both questionnaires tended to be more likely to suffer from anxiety and abuse alcohol and other substances than those who did not.

Writing in the Archives of Dermatology, the study authors observed: "Despite ongoing efforts to educate the public about the health risks associated with natural and non-solar UV radiation, recreational tanning continues to increase among young adults.

"Findings suggest that interventions to reduce skin cancer risk should address the addictive qualities of indoor tanning for a minority of individuals and the relationship of this behaviour to other addictions and affective disturbance."

Sarah Woolnough, Cancer Research UK's head of policy, said: "The study suggests that people who regularly use sunbeds may be more likely to show signs of addiction to indoor tanning. This underlines the importance of stopping children from having access to sunbeds.

"Cancer Research UK is delighted that, thanks to the success of the Private Member's Bill in Parliament, it will soon be illegal for under-18s to use sunbeds.

"It is also vital that the new government ensures that all sunbed salons are staffed and that information is provided warning users of the health risks."


  • Mosher, C., & Danoff-Burg, S. (2010). Addiction to Indoor Tanning: Relation to Anxiety, Depression, and Substance Use Archives of Dermatology, 146 (4), 412-417 DOI: 10.1001/archdermatol.2009.385