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Death Beds: The Fatal Consequences of Tanorexia


Casey Keenan, 17, of Farmingville is a self-proclaimed “avid tanner” and doesn’t understand why tanning beds are condemned while sunbathing at the beach on a scorching summer day is accepted.

“It’s the same thing,” Keenan says. His perfectly bronzed skin in mid-winter reflects the amount of time he spends tanning indoors. “Tanning in a bed is just another form of the sun’s rays.”


But what about those who can’t stop?

A study of 421 college undergraduates published by Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the University of Albany in 2010 found that a subgroup of indoor tanners were hooked on their tanning the way addicts are dependent on narcotics. A 2006 study by Wake Forest University researchers found that exposure to UV radiation increases the production of endorphins, morphine-like chemicals in the brain. When researchers gave frequent tanners an opioid-blocking medication, it reduced their desire to tan. When they didn’t tan, half of the subjects would go through withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea and the shakes—symptoms similar to those experienced by addicts hooked on alcohol and certain drugs.

Frequent tanners said they were aware their behavior could result in skin cancer, but 98 percent said they would continue tanning regardless.

And it is easy to be drawn in by warm beds, some equipped with 800-watt bulbs, some sleek and hot pink, others with audio systems, adjustable air conditioning, iPod hook-ups, massages, aromatherapy and water misting options.

Tanning beds are a $5 billion-a-year industry in the United States, according to The Skin Cancer Foundation, up from an estimated $2 billion in 2006. Nearly 30 million people, including 2.3 million teens, tan indoors in the U.S., according the American Academy of Dermatology.

Brittany Dammer, 24, of Selden, admits she spends $60 to $80 a month on tanning. A typical tanning session costs $7.

Dammer, whose skin is slightly darker than Keenan’s, says she’s been tanning since she was 15 years old, on and off, but for the past four years, she’s tanned “religiously,” five or six times a week.

The harsh facts are, people are tanning more frequently and at a younger age. Despite the millions of people who suffer from skin cancer due to excessive tanning, most people still don’t consider tanning addiction, commonly called “tanorexia,” a real condition. But that doesn’t make the consequences tanorexics suffer any less grave.

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6 Responses to “Death Beds: The Fatal Consequences of Tanorexia”

  1. Karen Mack says:

    Facebook: Tanup Salon and check out the discussion section where MP James Bezan reasons with me about his new bill to restrict tanning under 18 years indoors and my response to him. I have over 1000 clients whom tan only with moisturizers and are not dying from tanning indoors – sensibly.
    Karen Mack
    Tanup Salon

  2. Karen Mack says:

    Check out the video of our Tour n Tan on Facebook and see just how deadly these devices are! Wouldn’t you rather switch to a moisturizer instead?

  3. Mark Rogan says:

    I’m 55 years old.
    When I was 44 my wife noticed a small brown spot on my face. My dermatologist thought it wasn’t anything to be concerned about, but at the last minute decide to take a small biopsy. It turned out to be Stage III malignant melanoma. It had reached my lymph nodes. I had about a 50% chance of living 5 more years. A radical neck dissection removed over 85 lymph nodes followed by high-dose, daily interferon treatments.
    I’m a survivor. I’m incredibly lucky and grateful. Oh, I was an avid tanner and user of tanning beds. Want to see some sweet tan lines? Check out the scars across my face, down my neck all the way to my shoulder.

  4. I have been telling my daughter not to go to these tanning salons but like most young adults she enjoys sporting a tan in the winter. I also recently had occasion to visit one of these places run by an acquaintance of mine. I remember thinking to myself how much these tanning chambers resemble futuristic looking coffins. How macabre and how sad to know that many people still embark on this one way ticket to death despite all the information laid at their feet. My daughter, in fact, is a physician!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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