Cosmetic Surgery Today

Plastic Surgery News, Costs of Cosmetic Surgery and Elective Procedures Blog

“Tanorexia” Numbers On the Rise

Posted by Cosmetic Surgery Review on June 2, 2010

In spite of increasing incidences of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, many people are still flocking to the nearest tanning booth to get that coveted summer glow.

The Loyola University Health System reports that the number of “tanorexia” patients – individuals who are literally addicted to tanning – is on the rise, and that the indoor tanning business is booming as a result.

Statistics show that approximately thirty million men and women in the United States visit tanning salons each year, even though the effects of tanning include wrinkles, sun damaged skin, age spots and an increased risk of getting skin cancer. Overexposure to ultraviolet radiation is responsible for approximately 90 percent of skin cancers, and the risk of melanoma increases by 75 percent in individuals who hit the tanning booth before the age of 35. (Source: Medical News Today)

Dermatologists at Loyola University have published a study in the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology, indicating that tanning addictions are a “legitimate health problem.” Tanorexia, otherwise known as a tanning addiction, has its roots in the endorphin rush individuals get when they are exposed to UV rays. The diagnostic test for tanning dependence includes asking questions similar to those assessing for alcoholism. Those who are over-dependent on tanning may feel guilty after tanning, are annoyed when people mention their tanning habits, and have had difficulty cutting back on their tanning booth visits.

Dr. Richard Wagner, a UTMB dermatologist  appeared on ABC World News Tonight in 2005 and states, “Anecdotal observations about patients who seem ‘addicted to the sun’ have been discussed in dermatology for years…the sun helps release endorphins in the skin, and people may become addicted to the feeling they get after tanning.” (Source:

Many tanorexics also have body image issues, which may be triggering the addictive tanning cycle. Treatment options include psychological counseling and treatment for any underlying depression.


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