A bronze tan hasn’t always been coveted. In the 19th century, it was often associated with laborers who worked outdoors, making it unfashionable. But that trend started to reverse by the 1920s, with fashion magazines offering tips on how to get the perfect amount of sun.
Today, tanning is still in vogue. Unfortunately, some of us get too much sun, increasing the risk of skin cancer. Now, research out of King’s College London indicates some people might have a genetic predisposition to sun-seeking.
That certainly complicates public service campaigns that warn about the dangers of spending too much time under the sun unprotected.
Investigators analyzed health information from 2,500 twins, asking, among other things, how much time they spent sunning themselves. Scientists found genetically identical twins exhibited similar sun-seeking behavior, a potent clue that their compulsion for sunshine was gene-related.
Next, researchers identified five genes that appear to be related to the desire to tan after an analysis of more than 260,000 people. Some of the genes they identified have also been associated with risk-taking and addiction behavior. That includes smoking, cannabis use and alcohol consumption.
The study’s authors note that it’s clear many people get excessive sun and are fully aware of the dangers. They continue to expose themselves even when they have risk factors for skin cancer. Their genetic predisposition might explain why.
Researchers say it’s important that people be aware of this genetic predisposition so they are more mindful of their behavior. That knowledge might spur some to take a step into the shade.