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Ask the Doctor: Indoor Tanning by Dr. Mary M. Dobson

By November 9, 2013May 11th, 2023Skin Care

What is indoor tanning?

Indoor tanning is using a tanning bed, booth, or sunlamp to get a tan. Indoor tanning has been linked with skin cancers including melanoma (the deadliest type of skin cancer), squamous cell carcinoma, and cancers of the eye (ocular melanoma).


Dangers of Indoor Tanning

Indoor tanning exposes users to both UVA and UVB rays, which damage skin and lead to skin cancer. Using a tanning bed is particularly dangerous for younger users; people who begin tanning younger than 35 have a 75% higher risk of melanoma. Using tanning beds also increases the risk of wrinkles, eye damage, and changes skin texture.


Myths About Indoor Tanning


“Tanning indoors is safer than tanning in the sun”

  • Indoor tanning and tanning outside are both dangerous. Although tanning beds operate on a timer, the exposure to ultraviolet rays can vary based on the age and type of light bulbs. You can still get a burn from tanning indoors, and a tan indicates damage to your skin. Tanning beds cause about 1800 injuries requiring visits to the emergency room every year.



“I can use a tanning bed to get a base tan, which will protect me from getting sunburn”

  • A tan is a response to injury: skin cells respond to damage from UV rays by producing more pigment. The best way to protect your skin from the sun is protection. Protection from ultraviolet (UV) radiation is important all year round, not just during the summer or at the beach. UV rays from the sun can reach you on cloudy and hazy days, as well as bright and sunny days. UV rays also reflect off of surfaces like water, cement, sand, and snow. Indoor tanning (using a tanning bed, booth, or sunlamp to get tan) exposes users to UV radiation.The hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. daylight savings time (9 a.m. to 3 p.m. standard time) are the most hazardous for UV exposure outdoors in the continental United States. UV rays from sunlight are the greatest during the late spring and early summer in North America.


“Indoor tanning is a safe way to get vitamin D, which prevents many health problems.”

  • Vitamin D is important for bone health, but studies showing links between vitamin D and other health conditions are inconsistent. Although it is important to get enough vitamin D, the safest way is through diet or supplements. Tanning harms your skin, and the amount of time spent tanning to get enough vitamin D varies from person to person.