Tanning beds, skin cancer, and vitamin D: An examination of the scientific evidence and public health implications

Dermatol Ther. Jan-Feb 2010;23(1):61-71. doi: 10.1111/j.1529-8019.2009.01291.x.


Indoor tanning has become increasingly popular over the past decades, despite evidence of an increased risk of melanoma and, possibly, nonmelanoma skin cancer. Tanning bed proponents cite the health benefits of vitamin D to support indoor tanning, including concerns that reduced vitamin D levels or certain vitamin D receptor polymorphisms may be associated with increased incidence of various cancers, including cutaneous melanoma. However, most tanning devices primarily emit ultraviolet A, which is relatively ineffective in stimulating vitamin D synthesis. Health benefits can be fully dissociated from the ultraviolet exposure risks with vitamin D supplementation, although optimal levels remain to be established. Indoor tanning represents an avoidable risk factor for skin cancer, and education of the general public as well as the enactment and stricter enforcement of indoor tanning legislation are a public health imperative.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Beauty Culture
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Melanoma / etiology*
  • Melanoma / metabolism
  • Melanoma / prevention & control
  • Mice
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / etiology*
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / metabolism
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / prevention & control
  • Receptors, Calcitriol / metabolism
  • Skin Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Skin Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Skin Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Sunbathing*
  • Suntan*
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects*
  • Vitamin D / administration & dosage
  • Vitamin D / metabolism*
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / metabolism
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / prevention & control


  • Receptors, Calcitriol
  • Vitamin D