Addicted to the sun? It’s in your genes

10th September 2020 – by Paz García

Sun-seeking behaviour is linked to genes involved in addiction, behavioural and personality traits and brain function, according to a study of more than 260,000 people led by TwinsUK researchers.

This means that people’s behaviour towards seeking sun is affected by a genetic predisposition, and this needs to be taken into account when designing skin cancer awareness campaigns.

The researchers studied detailed health information of 2,500 twins from TwinsUK, including their sun-seeking behaviour and genetics. Identical twins in a pair were more likely to have a similar sun-seeking behaviour than non-identical twins, indicating that genetics play a key role.

The team then identified five key genes involved in sun-seeking behaviour from a further analysis of 260,000 participants from other cohorts. Some of these genes have been linked to behavioural traits associated with risk-taking and addiction, including smoking, cannabis and alcohol consumption and number of sexual partners.

First author Marianna Sanna said:

“When we look at the genes involved in sun-seeking behaviour, we see a clear link with genes previously associated with addiction and various risky behaviours. It would be interesting to investigate the connections between sun-seeking and other addictions and the genetic regulation and biology behind them.”

Senior author Dr Mario Falchi said:

“Our results suggest that tackling excessive sun exposure or use of tanning beds might be more challenging than expected, as it is influenced by genetic factors. It is important for the public to be aware of this predisposition, as it could make people more mindful of their behaviour and the potential harms of excessive sun exposure.”

Dr Veronique Bataille, Consultant Dermatologist involved in the research said:

“It is clear that we see individuals who have unhealthy sun behaviour and are fully aware of it. They will continue to expose themselves excessively even if they have clear skin cancer risk factors. Our research shows that genes regulating addiction and other risky behaviour are important and may explain some of the reticence in changing behaviours in the sun.”

Sanna, M et al. Looking for sunshine: genetic predisposition to sun-seeking in 265,000 individuals of European ancestry. Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 2020.

Recent Blog Post

Woman in pyjamas sat on bed clutching stomach

TwinsUK to take part in key Long COVID research programme

22nd February 2021 TwinsUK will be joining forces with other cohort studies across the UK to study Long COVID through...

Pizza cut into slices

Appetite linked to healthier gut bacteria and better muscle function in over-60s

15th February 2021 – by Paz García Over-60s with a good appetite have more diverse and different communities of microbes...

Tomaotes on table next to dried pasta and spring onions

A good diet can keep us healthy - but are we really in control of what we eat?

18th January 2021 – by Paz García Your food intake patterns are partly under genetic control, according to the latest...