Tanning is associated with optimal vitamin D status (serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration) and higher bone mineral density

Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Dec;80(6):1645-9. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/80.6.1645.


Background: Vitamin D is made in the skin on exposure to solar radiation, and it is necessary to optimal skeletal health. Subjects who use a tanning bed that emits ultraviolet B radiation (290-315 nm) are likely to have higher 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] concentrations than do subjects who do not regularly use a tanning bed.

Objective: The first objective of this study was to ascertain whether subjects who regularly use a tanning bed have higher 25(OH)D concentrations than do subjects who do not use a tanning bed. The second objective was to ascertain whether higher 25(OH)D concentrations correlated positively with bone mineral density.

Design: This cross-sectional analysis examined 50 subjects who used a tanning bed at least once a week and 106 control subjects. Each subject gave a blood specimen for measurement of serum 25(OH)D and parathyroid hormone concentrations. Each subject underwent bone mineral density testing of the hip and spine.

Results: Subjects who used a tanning bed had serum 25(OH)D concentrations 90% higher than those of control subjects (115.5 +/- 8.0 and 60.3 +/- 3.0 nmol/L, respectively; P <0.001). Subjects who used a tanning bed had parathyroid hormone concentrations 18% lower than those of control subjects (21.4 +/- 1.0 and 25.3 +/- 0.8 pg/mL, respectively; P=0.01). Tanners had significantly higher BMD and z scores at the total hip than did nontanners.

Conclusion: The regular use of a tanning bed that emits vitamin D-producing ultraviolet radiation is associated with higher 25(OH)D concentrations and thus may have a benefit for the skeleton.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bone Density / physiology*
  • Bone Density / radiation effects
  • Bone and Bones / metabolism
  • Bone and Bones / radiation effects*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Hip / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutritional Status
  • Parathyroid Hormone / blood
  • Seasons
  • Spine / diagnostic imaging
  • Sunlight
  • Ultraviolet Rays*
  • United States
  • Vitamin D / analogs & derivatives*
  • Vitamin D / blood*
  • Vitamin D / metabolism
  • Vitamin D / radiation effects*
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / epidemiology


  • Parathyroid Hormone
  • Vitamin D
  • 25-hydroxyvitamin D