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One Doctor Says Tanning Beds Aren't That Bad

Tanning Beds For Vitamin D? Really?

This point has been ingrained in most health-minded women for a while now: tanning beds are not healthy. They increase cancer risk exponentially after just a little bit of exposure, especially if you're under 30. While I'm not too proud of my teenage tanning days (it was pretty trendy to get a bit of a "glow" before going to the prom), I vowed never to set foot in the tanning salon ever again. Now, one doctor seems to be encouraging the practice in moderation.

A doctor at Boston University (who is also a professor) says that while he doesn't endorse tanning salons, when tanning beds are used in moderation they can be a good substitute for natural sunlight, which aids in the body's production of vitamin D. I'm not sure how you can both encourage use and warn of the dangers of the tanning bed, especially if you're dispensing the advice to anyone looking for an excuse to visit a "healthier" tanning bed.

His recommendation stems from research that taking a vitamin D supplement may not be the best way to get the vitamin — in fact, three out of four Americans don't get enough. Increased amounts of vitamin D have been associated with decreased chances of colon and breast cancers, and additional benefits to the heart and immune systems. To those using tanning beds to get an extra shot of vitamin D, the doctor recommends using sunscreen and choosing beds that use only low-florescent lamps. Vitamin D benefit or not, do your skin and health a favor and stay out of the tanning salon.

Image Source: Getty
Join The Conversation
Autumns_Elegy Autumns_Elegy 7 years
I don't see whats wrong with eating your leafy greens (delicious) and going for a short walk outside? I get heaps of vit D from walking between lectures at uni.
wbgrant wbgrant 7 years
Supplements are a great way to obtain vitamin D, especially if one can't obtain vitamin D from the sun due to being indoors, at high latitude, of dark skin, or combination of the above. Experts are now recommending 1000-5000 IU/day or more, 6000 IU for pregnant or nursing women. Calcium interacts with vitamin D and has benefits independently as well. Magnesium should also be taken at least half the amount of calcium. If interested, serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D tests can be ordered for $60 through or your MD.
WOW, not that I EVER tan (he he), but this debate is confusing. There is so much information out there and conflicting "science" maybe there needs to be more in depth studies about it. I'm from Jamaica, so I can tolerate the sun, but I live in NY where in the winter the only time I see the light of day is when I'm walking to and from the train in the morning. Am I not getting enough? What about calcium with vitamin D supplements? Does that give you the benefit without the risk of cancer? I'm concerned about this because black people can get skin cancer and are getting it more frequently nowadays, a relative of mine had several pre cancer cells removed from her back.
wbgrant wbgrant 7 years
"To those using tanning beds to get an extra shot of vitamin D, the doctor recommends using sunscreen and choosing beds that use only low-florescent lamps." Comment: never use sunscreen in a tanning bed. Sunscreen blocks the UVB and a little of the UVA. It also blocks vitamin D production. Out of doors, one should not use sunscreen except to avoid sunburning as wearing it in low UV conditions increases the amount of UVA irradiance and, hence, the risk of melanoma. The paper by ED Gorham et al. (2007) discusses this. This and other papers can be accessed through through use of keywords and author's names. There are also two studies from Sweden reporting that those who reported having used sunbeds had a lower risk of endometrial cancer and thrombotic events. A study in Boston reported tanners had higher serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and higher bone mass density. As long as the lamps in sunbeds (the low pressure ones) have 3-5% of the UV as UVB, they mimic the midday, midlatitude solar UV spectral distribution, but are several times more intense; therefore, a few minutes in sunbeds can produce 10,000 IU of vitamin D3. Recent scientific findings suggest that it takes several thousand IU of vitamin D3 day for optimal health as discussed by others here.
Spectra Spectra 7 years
Tanning beds may be able to give you a megadose of vitamin D, but it's just like any other thing that's "good for you"; get it from NATURE, not in megadose form. Red wine has resveratrol, but that doesn't mean you drink bottles of it. Bottom line, go out in the sun to get your vitamin D, but avoid staying out so long that you get really burnt or tanned.
Francoisehardly Francoisehardly 7 years
The sun's didn't die so there's no excuse to say anyone needs to use a tanning bed for that. And especially those of us who have a much lighter skin tone do not need a lot of sunlight to get vitamin D which also exists in food. Like Chloe Bella mentioned, cancer exists and I don't buy into pro tanning bed propaganda.
zeze zeze 7 years
Hmmm...this is interesting. I live in a state which get minimal sunlight months and I'm ALWAYS inside, I am 99% sure I need more vitamin D. I have NEVER been tanning becuase of the studies I've read which said that even once, especially before 30 can raise your risk of skin cancer - but this is really interesting. Fit, I get what you are saying, people should not use this vitamin D thing as an excuse to look like Snookie, but what about actually using a tanning bed sparingly, would that really improve vitamin D and how would that effect the skin in terms of skin cancer?
chloe-bella chloe-bella 7 years
Anonymous - I guess I'm just intrigued by the fact that your theories regarding the need for a large amount of sun exposure (or tanning bed UV exposure) doesn't seem to take into account the differences in race. It seems obvious to me that the people indigenous to tropical regions are better equipped to handle large amounts of UV rays than, say, my pale, blonde, Swedish mother who has had to have about 15 pre-cancerous growths removed in the past decade.
chloe-bella chloe-bella 7 years
Anonymous, autoimmune diseases have also been strongly linked to the consumption of animal products, which is why they're more prevalent in people eating the standard Western diet and less prevalent in Asian countries where people don't consume animal protein daily. I'm with Fit on this one; I don't see how any doctor could recommend using tanning beds.
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