“Safe” Tanning Beds? Think Again.
Recently, I had Dr. Joe Mercola on as a guest of the show. His views on alternative medicine are cutting edge – and often very controversial – garnering millions of online followers as well as the scorn of mainstream medicine.
During our segment, Dr. Mercola recommended the use of “safe” UVB tanning beds for getting vitamin D. While vitamin D plays a number of major roles in our health and many Americans are deficient in this nutrient, the use of tanning beds is a highly controversial suggestion:
The World Health Organization has recommended that no one use a tanning bed for cosmetic purposes, now listed as a “known human carcinogen.” This declaration was also made by the US Department of Health and Human Services, which placed tanning beds in the same cancer-causing category as tobacco.
During this same segment, I speculated on the therapeutic value of these specific UVB-emitting tanning beds (most tanning beds use only UVA rays, which can cause damage far below the surface of the skin).
As a doctor, it is my natural inclination to evaluate and question emerging information in science and medicine – but please do not misconstrue this as me changing my stance on the dangers of indoor tanning or prolonged unprotected exposure to the sun. In am in no way recommending the use of tanning beds. No tanning bed is safe – avoid them entirely.
My beliefs are firmly aligned with those of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD): Research shows that ultraviolet radiation from the sun and indoor tanning prematurely ages skin and can damage the DNA in skin cells, leading to skin cancer. The bottom line is both UVA and UVB rays cause cancer. And it’s not just sunburn we’re talking about – the use of tanning beds can cause damage to collagen and elastin fibers, dermal blood vessels and other structures. Excessive UV radiation exposure may compromise your immune system and cause blotchy skin discolorations. To learn even more about the ugly side of tanning, click here.
I’ve said it on the show many times before – the truth is, there’s no such thing as a "healthy" tan. A tan is your body's response to injury caused by the sun. But moderate and safe exposure to the sun is healthy, providing necessary vitamin D. Enjoy up to 15 minutes – at most – of natural sunlight without sunscreen to get the benefits of vitamin D. Or get it other ways: Many foods in the American diet are fortified with this essential nutrient. I recommend a dose of 1000 IU of vitamin D3 a day via a supplement.
Spread the word on the risks of tannning and just how serious and deadly skin cancer is.