"Sunburn" by Kelly Sue

Craving the Sun? Twin Study Finds It May Be Genetic

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr Mario Falchi Head of Bioinformatics for the School of Life Course Sciences Department of Twin Research & Genetic Epidemiology King’s College London

Dr. Falchi

Dr Mario Falchi
Head of Bioinformatics for the School of Life Course Sciences
Department of Twin Research & Genetic Epidemiology
King’s College London

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: The relationship between sun exposure and health is a double-edged sword, on one side there is the beneficial effect of vitamin D production and on the other the increased risk of skin cancer, depending on length and frequency of exposure, and on the individual skin type.

Despite public health campaigns, changing sun-seeking behaviour seems to be challenging for some people, even for those with a familial or personal history of skin cancer. Previous investigations have suggested that exposure to UV could be addictive. 

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?

"Sunburn" by Kelly Sue

“Sunburn” by Kelly Sue

Response: We investigated the sun seeking behaviour of 2,500 twins from the TwinsUK cohort, finding that identical twins tend to share a more similar attitude towards sun exposure compared to fraternal twins. Sun seeking seems to be heritable and significantly influenced by genetics. To identify the genes involved, we performed a genome-wide association study of sun seeking behaviour in 260,000 volunteers from the UK Biobank and the US Nurses’ Health Studies and Health Professionals Follow-up Study, which highlighted five significantly-associated genetic loci. These loci are enriched for genes expressed in the central nervous system, and that have been previously associated with behavioural traits, cognitive function, and addiction. Interestingly, one of these genes has also recently been associated with vitamin D levels

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Sun seeking behaviour is influenced by genes involved in neuropsychological traits and addiction. This should be taken into account to improve the efficiency of public health campaigns aimed at reducing sun exposure and incidence of skin cancer. 

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Further investigations aimed at understanding the mechanisms of addiction more generally, and the biological pathways involved will help in identifying potential drug targets to tackle and help controlling a number of risky behaviours that have a negative impact on public health.


Sanna Marianna, Li Xin, Visconti Alessia, Freidin Maxim B, Sacco Chiara, Ribero Simone, Hysi Pirro, Bataille Veronique, Han Jiali, Falchi Mario. Looking for Sunshine: Genetic Predisposition to Sun-Seeking in 265,000 Individuals of European Ancestry. Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 2020; DOI: 10.1016/j.jid.2020.08.014


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Last Updated on September 14, 2020 by Marie Benz MD FAAD