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Longevity Briefs: Addiction to sun-bathing is influenced by our genetics

Posted on 21 September 2020

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Longevity briefs provides a short summary of a novel research, medicine, or technology that caught the attention of our researchers in Oxford, due to its potential to improve our health, wellbeing, and longevity.

Why is this research important: Exposure to UV radiation is important for health, as it plays a crucial role in vitamin D synthesis. In addition, research has shown that UV radiation can also produce pleasure chemicals, or endorphins which are similar to opioids such as heroin and morphine. Due to this effect many people are addicted to sunbathing, and as much as one in three meet the definition for addiction.

However, excess UV radiation increases the risks of skin cancer. Tanning became increasingly popular in Western culture since the 20th century, but research suggests that exposure to sunlight can be addictive. It is essential to understand mechanisms of the addiction and whether social, environmental or genetic factors impact it, so negative effects of prolonged UV exposure can be decreased.

What did the researchers do: Researchers have conducted statistical analysis on sun-seeking behaviour and genetics of 2,700 twins from TwinsUK databank and 260,000 participants from UK Biobank.

Key takeaway(s) from this research: Researches have identified 5 genetic loci involved in sun-seeking behaviour and it has been identified that those loci play important role in behavioural traits and addiction. In addition, some of those genes influence melanoma-related genes. This concludes that sun-seeking behaviour is largely influenced by genetics, independently of individual ability to tan and socio-economical status.

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