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Addicted to the Sun: Research connects UV light to opiate-like effects

Why has it been so hard to discourage people from spending time in the sun when the dangers of ultraviolet light exposure are so well recognized? A new study from Harvard Medical School investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital adds important support to the theory that ultraviolet (UV) light can actually be addictive.

The scientists found that chronic UV exposure raises circulating levels of beta-endorphin in mice and that UV-habituated mice exhibit withdrawal symptoms if beta-endorphin activity is blocked. Their report appears in the June 19 issue of Cell.

Funding: The study was supported by National Institutes of Health grants R01-AR043369-16 and R01-CA150226-03, the Melanoma Research Alliance, the US-Israel Binational Science Foundation, and the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Medical Research Foundation.

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