Can a Tanning Bed Be Healthy?

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November 11, 2006 | 190,733 views

Story at-a-glance

  • A tanning bed can be a safe way tooptimize your vitamin D level, but it must be the right kind of tanning bed—one that produces UVB without dangerous EMF radiation produced from magnetic ballasts used in most conventional tanning beds.
  • Vitamin D is vital for good health and affects about 10 percent of the 25,000 or so genes in your body, which is why vitamin D deficiency has been implicated in so many diseases
  • Oral vitamin D3 supplementation may not be quite as effective as the vitamin D your body makes in response to UV light, but it’s better than allowing your vitamin D levels to remain deficient and placing yourself at risk for multiple diseases, including several forms of cancer
  • Current research shows ultraviolet light is protective against melanoma, as opposed to causing it

By Dr. Mercola

Sun exposure is crucial for optimal health for a number of reasons, with Vitamin D production being the most important. The best way to get vitamin D is direct sun exposure, but for many, that simply is not practical, especially in the winter. Nearly everyone today has insufficient vitamin D—a deficiency that can negatively impact your health in numerous ways. Timing of your sunlight exposure is important though. In order to help you understand this complex topic you can review my video below.

The images used in this video belong to The United States Naval Observatory (USNO)
To find the information for your area, please visit the USNO site.

If natural sun exposure isn't an option, then you will need to select another way of optimizing your vitamin D level. The next best means of doing this is by artificial ultraviolet light. You cannot get vitamin D from full spectrum bulbs; it has to be a bulb that produces ultraviolet radiation.

Are Tanning Beds Safe?

UVB is the type of ultraviolet light that causes your skin to convert cholesterol into vitamin D. It is possible to get UVB from a tanning bed, but the EMFs produced by magnetic ballasts used by the vast majority of tanning beds are of major concern. You want to make sure you're using a tanning bed that employs newer electronic ballasts, which virtually eliminate this risk and are safe. They also use about 30 percent less electricity and produce more light, so they are far more economical to run.

But doesn't ultraviolet light cause melanoma?

Rates of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, have been rising for at least the last three decades, and this increase has been largely blamed on exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun.However, research published in the British Journal of Dermatology1 shows that the sun is likely nothing more than a scapegoat in the development of melanoma, and the sharp increase may actually be "an artifact caused by diagnostic drift."Researchers believe the rising rates of melanoma are due to an increase in diagnoses of non-cancerous lesions classified, misleadingly, as "stage 1 melanoma."

Exposure to sunlight, particularly UVB, is actually protective against melanoma—or rather, the vitamin D your body produces in response to UVB radiation is protective.

Oral Vitamin D Supplementation

If natural sunlight exposure or a safe tanning bed are both unavailable to you, then the third option is to take an oral vitamin D supplement, in the form of vitamin D3. The oral non-sulfated form of vitamin D might not provide all of the same benefits as the vitamin D created in your skin from sun exposure, as it cannot be converted to vitamin D sulfate. However, an oral supplement is better than no vitamin D at all.

Based on the research available as of 2011,it appears as though most adults need about 8,000 IU's of vitamin D daily in order to get their serum levels above 40 ng/ml. In 2007 the recommended level was between 40 to 60 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml). Since then, the optimal vitamin D level has been raised to 50-70 ng/ml, and when treating cancer or heart disease, as high as 70-100 ng/ml. This means your risk of overdosing is very slim, even if you take 8,000 IU's of vitamin D3 a day.

I recommend having your vitamin D level regularly tested (it's a blood test) to make sure you're within the therapeutic range. Your physician can do this for you, or another alternative is to join the D*Action study. D*Action is a worldwide public health campaign aiming to solve the vitamin D deficiency epidemic through focus on testing, education, and grassroots word of mouth. For more information about D*Action, please see this link.

The Perils of Vitamin D Deficiency

There are only about 25,000 genes in your body, and vitamin D has been shown to influence about 3,000 of them. That is one of the primary reasons it influences so many diseases (as seen in the table below).


 Hypertension  Heart disease
 Autism  Obesity  Rheumatoid arthritis
 Diabetes 1 and 2  Multiple Sclerosis  Crohn's disease
 Flu  Colds  Tuberculosis
 Septicemia  Aging  Psoriasis
 Eczema  Insomnia  Hearing loss
 Muscle pain  Cavities  Periodontal disease
 Athletic performance  Macular degeneration  Myopia
 Preeclampsia  Seizures  Fertility
 Asthma  Cystic fibrosis  Migraines
 Depression  Alzheimer's disease  Schizophrenia


Vitamin D really isn't a vitamin at all, but rather a potent neuroregulatory steroidal hormone. It has become very clear that vitamin D deficiency is a growing epidemic across the world and is contributing to many chronic debilitating diseases.

For more information, please visit my Vitamin D Resource Page.


[+]Sources and References [-]Sources and References

  • 1 Br J Dermatol September 2009