Summer is in full swing and many of us are enjoying the warmth and sunshine this season brings. We are outdoors more and reaping the benefits of sunshine, from increased Vitamin D to better mental health.
But a new Harvard study has found that tanning in the sun may actually be addictive -- something we need to be aware of, especially with the rise of skin cancer.
Harvard researchers placed mice in the sun for 30 minutes every day for six weeks, shaving their backs for maximum exposure.
What they found was that along with a tan, the mice were producing endorphins, otherwise known as the happy or pleasure chemical. Endorphins relax the body, promote better mental health and make a person feel happier than they would without them.
The mice were then injected with substances to block this pleasurable feeling. And while the mice didn't actively seek the sun like an addict would, they did try to avoid going to the area where they received the injections, showing that they did not want to stop these feelings of pleasure that the endorphins gave.
This, researchers believe, is a sign of addictive behavior.
One of the researchers, Dr. David Fisher, thinks addiction to the sun is real. He told the BBC, "People who may have no intention of using any drugs may just think they're going out to enjoy a great day outdoors and may be becoming addicted and exposing themselves and their children to UV in a fashion which could elevate their risk of developing skin cancer.”
While this study certainly sows the seeds of potential addiction, some researchers continue to disagree until further conclusive evidence in shown.
According to Dr. David Belin, an addiction researcher at the University of Cambridge, real addiction to the sun (and tanning) would be evidenced by people losing their homes, jobs and other important aspects of life, the same as drug, alcohol or gambling addicts.
To counter his opinion -- knowing that too much sun exposure can and does lead to cancer still does not stop sun worshippers, showing a possible addiction despite a potential death sentence.
Bear in mind that a little exposure every day is just fine.