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Charlotte Observer publishes viewpoint column by Mat Gendle

The Charlotte Observer on March 25 published a viewpoint opinion column by Mat Gendle, an associate professor of psychology, who used his research on campus to warn readers of North Carolina's largest newspaper that tanning beds may, in fact, be addictive.

Mat Gendle

From the column "A new kind of drug: The perfect tan":

Several studies, including work from my lab, have administered clinical surveys to measure tanning behaviors in collegiate populations. They have consistently found high rates of tanning among students that meet the accepted professional definition of substance dependence. Many of these students admit they visit the tanning bed much more often than needed to keep their "perfect" tan; they find it difficult to reduce the amount of time spent tanning; and they have patterns of tanning behaviors that interfere with work, school and social engagements.

Students surveyed typically report tanning despite understanding the health implications - namely, a higher chance of skin cancer later in life. Other research hints that excessive UV light exposure can alter brain chemistry in ways that are similar to the reinforcing effects of drugs like heroin.

Although these findings are preliminary, they paint a picture of ultraviolet light dependence that may, in fact, be based in chemical and physiological alterations common to drug-related withdrawal and behavioral reinforcement.

The basis for the column comes from a research report Gendle co-authored with Elizabeth Olszewski '09 that has been published in the Spring 2010 issue of the Journal of the North Carolina Academy of Science.

Eric Townsend,
3/30/2010 12:39 PM