According to a new study, sunbathing can be addictive and it affects the brain like heroin does.
Scientists from Harvard University suggest that sunlight stimulates the body to generate endorphins which is a hormone that eases pain and makes a person feel good. Sunbathing could be addictive because the body becomes addicted to this hormone released through ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure.
The body has a natural opioid called beta-endorphins which are also released in the bloodstream by drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes. Endorphins are said to encourage addictive behaviors. However, UV rays exposure is known to increase a person's risk for melanoma and skin cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, there will be 76,100 melanoma cases in 2014.
"The linkage between all common forms of skin cancer and UV is very firmly established and has been known for many years," Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) department of dermatology chairman and senior author of the study Dr. David E. Fisher said. "On the one hand, we know, a huge amount of what causes [skin cancer], and you'd expect the incidence to be falling. In fact, epidemiological data shows not only that it's rising, but rising with a steeper slope than any other cancer."
For the study, the researchers experimented with mice. They exposed several mice with shaved backs to UV equivalent to roughly 20 to 30 minutes of sun exposure during summer in Florida for a person with fair skin. Fisher said the exposure was not enough to even sunburn the rodents. One week after the mice were exposed to UV, the team tested beta-endorphin levels in the rodents' bloodstream. It appears that endorphin levels rose sharply that it was enough to dull the sense of pain of the mice.
The researchers said that behavioral sun exposure is influenced beyond the desire to just play outdoor sports outside. They surmise that something else is motivating this behavior. According to the American Cancer Society, melanoma rates have been increasing for around 30 years already with around 9,700 forecasted deaths for 2014. This new information could educate people and curb their excessive sun exposure.