The reality of tanorexia

Audrey Rabalais, a senior journalism major at Ohio University, is a summer editorial intern with CURE. While most cosmetic procedures are relatively harmless--makeup, haircuts, eyebrow tweezings, etc.--tanning is nothing short of dangerous. The WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer classified ultraviolet-emitting tanning devices as Group I carcinogenic agents, in the same category as tobacco and asbestos. In fact, a recent study shows participants who used tanning beds for over 50 hours were 2.5 to 3 times more likely to develop melanoma than those who had never used them. The recent 10 percent tax on tanning salon services went into effect at the beginning of this month. Skin cancer researchers are hopeful that it will be enough to deter frequent users from frying their skin So, with the tax and the general knowledge that skin cancer waits for those who bake, why haven't salons shut down from lack of business? Answer: Daily Double. Some don't care while others are addicted to the effects of ultraviolet light.Addiction is a nasty word. When we hear it, often what comes to mind are chain smokers and others who are dependent on chemicals to function. Although UV rays are not addictive themselves, the chemicals they cause the body to produce are. Exposure to UV light releases endorphins in the body--little feel-good chemicals that make your brain sparkle and your body to relax. You could probably bottle them and make a fortune. You can also feel their effects after exercise, during sexual activity, and while eating chocolate. However, many choose the carcinogenic path to a biological high, and the link between UV light and endorphins has been proven by research.In a study by Steven Feldman, MD, professor of dermatology at Wake Forest University, tanning bed regulars (those who admitted to tanning indoors eight to 15 times in a month) and infrequent tanners (those who used tanning beds no more than 12 times in a year) were asked to lie in one of two identical tanning beds twice weekly for six weeks. One of the beds emitted normal UV light while the other was designed to block UV rays. The tanners were assigned to a certain bed two days a week. However, researchers allowed the participants to tan an additional day during the week using a bed of their choice. During these choose-your-bed sessions, the UV bed was chosen 95 percent of the time with tanners reporting that it was more relaxing than the other bed.Tanorexia is a problem affecting women and men who are not only addicted to the endorphin high, but are also convinced that they look thinner and more attractive when bronze. There are few places that fuel this anxiety more than a college campus. In a study of 229 college students, researchers from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the University of Albany in New York used the CAGE (Cut down, Annoyed, Guilty, Eye-opener) Questionnaire, typically used to evaluate alcoholism, to screen for tanning addictions. All students reported using indoor tanning facilities at least once and 30 percent met the CAGE criteria for tanning addiction.Peer pressure can be daunting, but it's the thought of cancer that haunts my nightmares.So, for those wanting to look better, aim for healthy lifestyle changes instead. Eat a healthy diet, try a new workout routine, and take care of your skin. These changes come with scores of health benefits.And if you think you can use "getting my vitamin D" as an excuse to bask under the bulbs, think again. Many juices and milks are now fortified with vitamin D. You can also buy supplements at a drugstore. Either of these options is not only healthier, but cheaper than a tanning package.Still just want to look like you recently hopped off a plane from Malibu? Though her actions are often questionable, Snooki from the reality television show Jersey Shore had the right idea when she switched from bulbs to spray tans after the tax became effective. Now that's reality for you.