Tanning beds to treat psoriasis?

ailmentPsoriasis-100x100In a recent post on the National Psoriasis Foundation discussion board, a patient stated that the dermatologist recommended “that I use a tanning bed as this is far more convenient and less costly than using light box therapy.”

This lead to divergent views on the role of tanning beds in psoriasis treatment.

Here’s what we know.

In recently published book (page 129) by Dr. Carolyn Heckman at Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia and Dr. Sharon Manne at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey neatly summarize the issue.

  • Diseases such as psoriasis… are safely and effectively treated with office-based phototherapy, but the inconvenience of multiple frequent office visits, usually during the workday, is a major obstacle for many patients.
  • With the rising costs of healthcare… many patients are reluctant to use physician-directed light-based therapy.

Few data exist on indoor tanning salons to treat skin disease, but here’s what we know.

  • Survey of 113 psoriasis patients
    • 68% believed commercial tanning beds were an effective treatment
  • Review of medical records from 26 patients and a real-time study of 17 patients
    • 59% and 82% reported clear of almost clear psoriasis by the end of the study.
    • In the real-time study, tanning bed type and amount of UVB and UVA dosage were monitored and controlled.
    • All patients received concomitant acitretin (Soriatane) by mouth.

The bottom line.

Researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, in North Carolina caution that “Because of [the] variability in UVA and UVB output in different tanning bulbs, it is difficult to predict response rates using commercial tanning beds.”

Patients need a convenient way to determine the UV emissions from tanning bulbs. Good luck with that.

Finally, patients should make their healthcare providers aware of their use of indoor tanning beds.

5/1/13 10:25 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.