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Too Much Fun in The Sun? Study Suggests ‘Sun Addiction’ Has Genetic Roots

Published on September 10th, a new study from the Journal of Investigative Dermatology suggests that heavy ‘sun-seeking’ behavior may be linked to genetics. 

The study collected data from over 260,000 persons of European ancestry, and found a total of five loci (fixed positions on chromosomes where specific genetic markers are located) linked to this strong sun-seeking behavior. 

The team also identified and tested 2,500 pairs of twins, looking at their genetics and prevalence of sun-seeking behavior. Identical twins were more likely to show similar levels of sun-seeking behaviors, further suggesting a genetic influence on this condition. 

This research could help explain the difficulties those with sun-seeking behaviors face even after they recognize that their behaviors are negatively impacting their health. And with the growing public awareness of the negative effects of excessive sun exposure or overuse of tanning services, this could make for a significant change in the way people view sun-seeking behavior as a condition. 

“Our results suggest that tackling excessive sun exposure or use of tanning beds might be more challenging than expected, as it is influenced by genetic factors”, said Senior Author Dr. Mario Falchi from King’s College. “It is important for the public to be aware of this predisposition, as it could make people more mindful of their behavior and the potential harms of excessive sun exposure.” 

These sun-seeking behaviors were first identified to impact the brain in a similar manner as a substance addiction back in 2014, with the publication of Skin β-Endorphin Mediates Addiction to UV Light to the Cell Press Journal. 

The researchers tested elevated levels of UV exposure on mice, and found the exposure to both elevate endorphin levels and lead to withdrawal-like symptoms after some time. The researchers also linked the discovery to the ongoing rise in skin cancer occurrence, a trend that has continued long past 2014. 

Despite all this emerging information about the prevalence and risks of sun-seeking behavior, many have yet to recognize the predisposition as an issue, much less an addiction. There is no dedicated website on ‘Sun Addiction’, nor is there an excess of online resources that one could use to get help for their problematic behaviors.  

If public awareness of this issue is to continue increasing, it is paramount that those seeking to offer aid consider the results of this September 10th study, and remember that the cause of these behaviors are more than skin deep. 

Written by Joseph Detrano, CAS Science Writer
Disclaimer: The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the Center of Alcohol & Substance Use Studies