Addicted to the Sun? Research Shows It’s in Your Genes

Summary: Identical twins were more likely to have similar sun-seeking behaviors than non-identical twins, suggesting genetics play a key role in sun-seeking behaviors. Researchers identified five genes associated with sun-seeking behavior, some of which have previously been associated with behavioral traits linked to risk-taking and addiction.

Source: King’s College London

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 King’s College London researchers.

This means that people’s behaviour towards seeking sun is complicated 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.

This shows a person sunbathing
The team also identified five key genes involved in sun-seeking behaviour from further analysis. Image is credited to King’s College London.

Senior author Dr Mario Falchi from King’s College London 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 from King’s College London added: “It is clear that we see individuals who have very 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.”

About this genetics research article

King’s College London
Press Office – King’s College London
Image Source:
The image is credited to King’s College London.

Original Research: Open access
“Looking for Sunshine: Genetic Predisposition to Sun-Seeking in 265,000 Individuals of European Ancestry” by Sanna Marianna, Li Xin, Visconti Alessia, Freidin Maxim B, Sacco Chiara, Ribero Simone, Hysi Pirro, Bataille Veronique, Han Jiali, Falchi Mario. Journal of Investigative Dermatology.


Looking for Sunshine: Genetic Predisposition to Sun-Seeking in 265,000 Individuals of European Ancestry

Despite growing public awareness on adverse consequences of excessive sun exposure, modifying sun-seeking behaviour is challenging as it appears to be driven by addictive mechanisms. This can have effects on health since sun exposure, although beneficial, when prolonged and repeated shows a causal relationship with skin cancer risk. Using data from 2,500 UK twins, we observed sun-seeking to be significantly heritable (h2≥58%). In a GWAS meta-analysis of sun-seeking behaviour in 261,915 subjects of European ancestry, we identified five GWAS-significant loci, previously associated with addiction, behavioural and personality traits, cognitive function and educational attainment, and enriched for central nervous system gene expression: MIR2113 (P=2.08×10-11), FAM76B/MTMR2/CEP57 (P=3.70×10-9), CADM2 (P=9.36×10-9), TMEM182 (P=1.64×10-8), and PLCL1/LINC01923/SATB2 (P=3.93×10-8).

These findings imply that the behaviour concerning ultraviolet exposure is complicated by a genetic predisposition shared with neuropsychological traits. This should be taken into consideration when designing awareness campaigns and may help improving people’s attitude toward sun exposure.

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