Tanning season is upon us and so is the increased risk of skin cancer. University of Kentucky Associate Professor of Pediatrics John Dorazio is among those researchers trying to determine why ultraviolet rays cause melanoma. He says tanning can affect the brain as well as the skin. "Tanning can actually be a true addictive kind of behavior and there's a physiological reason for this. The same pathway that makes the skin tan also gives us beta endorphins and those endorphins act like little bits of morphine in the skin and gets absorbed in the bloodstream and it makes you feel good," said Dorazio.
According to Dorazio, studies show one out of every 16 hundred people in the 1930's was diagnosed with melanoma. He says today the figure is one in every 60 people. The clinician and researcher says the huge increase is due, in part, to an aging population, plus heightened awareness and diagnosis.
Some research today centers on a longer-lasting topical protection.
Dorazio says a cream, derived from a plant found in the Himalaya's, has only been applied to mice so far. He says it was found to provide safe sunless tanning. The University of Kentucky Pediatrics Professor admits such a product for humans is likely years away. He believes this type of skin protection will probably always be topical. "The problem with the pill is, whatever drug that you give by a pill, if you want it to affect the skin, in melanocyte melanin protection it's got to build up in the skin at those cells," added Dorazio.
Dorazio admits use of a longer lasting skin protector is probably still years away.