FOX 47 - Health News

Thursday, November 3 2011, 07:35 PM CDT

MADISON (WMSN) -- New research shows tanning is more than just skin deep. It can be addictive.

How addictive? As much as cocaine or heroin.

In a Fox 47 News Special Report, experts in Madison spoke about the story have to say about the study.

"That's so true because once your convinced you're more tan you're more beautiful - all the girls will love you," said Patient Scott Rouse, Fitchburg resident.

Rouse says his love affair with tanning began as a teenager in the 1970's when he and his friends would lay out in Ft. Atkinson during those hot Wisconsin summers.

"We were driven by this need to be dark we were out between 1 and 4 p.m. and the baby oil was Johnson & Johnson we'd slap that on," said Rouse.

Years later - he's found the consequences from it.

"I noticed a little thing growing on my cheek here. It turns out it was basal cell carcinoma," said Rouse.

Basil cell carcinoma is the most common and least lethal type of skin cancer. The now 58-year-old has had three more cancers removed. Scott is not alone with the burning desire to be dark.

Dr. Bryan Baldo researches food addictions in rat's brains.

He says findings in "The Journal Addiction Biology" sheds new light on why despite warnings - people still go tanning.

"When you scan the brain the same brain structures that light up in response to drugs and reward are lighting up when an individual is in a tanning salon," said Dr. Bryan Baldo, UW Researcher.

He says this shines light on what's happens when you go under UV.

"It would produce symptoms that were very similar to heroin addicts for example. How that happens I'm not sure yet but its a fascinating insight," said Baldo.

Steve Rouse's dermatologist, Dr. Robert McDonald says a study back in 2005 might explain why.

"When a person is shielded out of all the light their brain didn't light up the same way as they did with real UV light. It suggests that a reaction in the skin is happening that the brain can detect," said Dr. Robert McDonald, Dermatologist with Dean Clinic.

Which shows the addiction - is UV light.

"The American Academy of Dermatology put a lot of money in to a campaign for several years and found out even after this was completed it made no difference," said Dr. McDonald.

The Skin Cancer Foundation found about 30 million Americans use tanning beds each year.

"He [Scott Rouse] has very sun damaged skin and will continue to get multiple skin cancers so he can turn it around if he wears a hat and shirt," said Dr. McDonald.

"I haven't been in a tanning bed for 6 years even though I was a weekly user several years before that. So, you live by your mistakes I guess," said Rouse.

Special Report: Tanning as addictive as heroin? Study says it`s true

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