Your love for tanning may be motivated by more than just a desire to get a perfect bronze glow.
A new study by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital suggests that sunbathing can be addictive, the Guardian reported. According to researchers, tanning cravings may be caused by the “feel-good” chemicals the body releases when it makes contact with ultraviolet light.
During the six-week study, a group of mice was exposed to the midday Florida sun for 30 minutes. All of the mice had shaved backs to maximize their exposure to the sunlight. The researchers discovered that the sunlight triggered the creation of the protein proopiomelanocortin, which fuels the tanning process. But researchers found that proopiomelanocortin also increased levels of beta-endorphins, or pleasure chemicals, in the mice.
The study found that mice that had been exposed to the light experienced withdrawal symptoms when they were given drugs to block the beta-endorphins’ effects.
"This suggests that ultraviolet radiation can have significant opiate-like effects in a broad sense -- probably in many species, not only in laboratory mice," said David Fisher, director of the Cutaneous Biology Research Center and leader of the study.
He said the results "may underlie some of the dangerous consequences of UV radiation in man" because of their possibly addictive nature.