Tanorexia An Addiction, Physicians Say

Like that tanning bed too much?  It’s an addiction.  A rite of spring when anticipating an upcoming prom finds many young women heading to the tanning parlor to get that certain glow to complement their special dress.  Little do they know that too much tanning can turn into an addiction and make them more prone to skin cancer.

Brittany Cicala of Chesapeake Beach, MD, learned about the dangers of tanning the hard way.  At age 17, she headed to the tanning salon so she would look “tan and healthy” in the white lace dress she had chosen to wear to her prom.  Even after the event, Cicala – a blue-eyed blonde with fair skin – kept on tanning, often spending 20 to 25 minutes in the bed seven days a week.  In the summer of 2004, Cicala found a mole about the size of a nickel on her back.  When the mole started to bleed, she went to the doctor, was diagnosed with melanoma, and in the six years since has undergone 34 surgeries.  Cicala today describes herself as “tanorexic”.

According to Dr. Robin Hornung, a pediatric dermatologist in Washington state, melanoma rates are growing fastest among young women, and notes that many experts are suspicious of tanning beds.  A study by the University of Minnesota determined that melanoma risk increased as much as three times among people who tanned more than 50 hours, or had spent more than 100 sessions in a tanning bed.  The World Health Organization has classified tanning beds as carcinogenic and recommends banning young people under 18 from using them.

Tanorexia points out the importance of getting outpatient screenings in community-based settings to preemptively prevent melanomas and other cancers.

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