New Jersey "tanning mom" brings to light issue of tanning addiction

WAUWATOSA -- Patricia Krentcil says she has been tanning her entire life. Krentcil is a New Jersey mother who has entered the spotlight amid allegations she took her five-year-old daughter into a tanning booth, and the daughter suffered a sunburn.

Krentcil denies she took her daughter into the tanning booth, but says she, herself, tans five days a week, and may be addicted.

Krentcil's appearance is shocking to some, but not so shocking to staff at Sun Kissed Tanning in Wauwatosa. "I know people that are way too dark, that shouldn't be coming in," Ashley Moeller said.

Moeller says tanning addiction is real. She's seen a handful of customers who don't realize they've taken their habit too far. "When you tell people they're really tan, they don't really think they are. They see a completely different person," Moeller said.

Krentcil's appearance is alarming to doctor Kathleen Stokes, with Affiliated Dermatologists. Stokes had read studies on tanning addiction and has seen patients in Wauwatosa who may fit the definition.

"My patients are usually very well-informed. Some of them have already had skin cancer and they continue to tan, and that's the definition of addiction - continuing to do a behavior that you know has ill effects, and you continue to do it," Stokes said.

Stokes says studies show tanning can lead to feelings of pleasure, much like other addictive habits. "The cerebral blood flow in patients who tan excessively is the same as other addictions, like drugs and alcohol," Stokes said.

Stokes recommends her patients never tan. At Sun Kissed Tanning, every new customer must read about the dangers and sign a waiver. "People can do whatever they want. It's a free country. If they want to go tanning, they can go tanning," Moeller said.

Krentcil's husband, Rich, is defending his wife. He insists his wife is a good mother who is being wrongly accused and unfairly judged.

"She enjoys tanning and I just think that's a thing that she does, but I agree, this is being judged right away when the real truth will come out," Rich Krentcil said.

Rich Krentcil says Patricia would go tanning every other day, for 12 minute sessions. The tanning salon owner has revoked Patricia's membership and is refunding her money.

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