A review of the use of tanning beds as a dermatological treatment

Dermatol Ther (Heidelb). 2015 Mar;5(1):37-51. doi: 10.1007/s13555-015-0071-8. Epub 2015 Mar 4.


Introduction: In-office phototherapy is an effective treatment for many dermatologic conditions, however, many patients are unable to adhere to the rigorous travel and time commitments sometimes needed. Tanning bed facilities are nearly ubiquitous in modern society and could represent a more convenient means to obtain ultraviolet (UV) exposure when office phototherapy is not feasible. The purpose of this study was to review available evidence on the use of tanning facilities as a treatment for dermatologic conditions.

Methods: PubMed was searched on February 2015 for "tanning beds" and "phototherapy", and with some dermatologic conditions sensitive to UV light, including "psoriasis", "mycosis fungoides", "acne", "atopic dermatitis" and "eczema". From there, further articles were found using the reference sections of the initial papers. A similar methodology was used with the Google Scholar search engine. Only articles in English and prospective studies were included in this review.

Results: We found studies validating the use of tanning facilities for psoriasis treatment. Use as a treatment option for atopic dermatitis, mycosis fungoides, acne, scleroderma, vitiligo, and pruritus, as well as other UV sensitive dermatoses, may also be beneficial. This study is limited by the lack of double-blind, placebo-controlled trials, long-term follow-up studies, and meta-analyses for tanning facility use in dermatologic phototherapy, and by the lack of standardization of both tanning facilities and exposure dosing.

Conclusion: Unsupervised sun exposure is a standard recommendation for some patients to obtain phototherapy. Selected use of commercial tanning beds in the treatment of dermatologic conditions may be another useful and effective treatment for those patients with an inability to access office-based or home-based phototherapy.