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This week we respond to questions about IUDs for birth control and the use of tanning beds for Vitamin D supplementation.

Dear HOUSE Calls,

I have been considering an IUD for birth control but I have heard that it can be painful to get them inserted and that they can fall out.  How common are these problems?

An IUD is an intrauterine device for birth control and there are two types in common use in the US. The Mirena emits progesterone locally and lasts for five years. The Paraguard is made of copper and lasts for 10 years. These can be inserted during a simple office procedure by your family physician.

There is some cramping with IUD insertion, and we advise women to take 800 mg of ibuprofen 30 minutes before the procedure. Most women tolerate this insertion very well. It is sometimes a little more crampy in women who have not had babies and in women with scarring over the birth canal from previous procedures. Falling out is really quite uncommon.  It may be a little more common if put in right after delivery of a baby.  If it does fall out, we can just about guarantee that it was easy to put in, and we can simply insert another one. You can check after menstrual periods to see if the device is in place – your doctor will show you how to check the strings.

It is a really great option without hormonal side effects and no worries about remembering to take something every day, week, or month.

Dear HOUSE Calls,

When I went to the tanning bed, they had signs saying that tanning was good for vitamin D levels.  Is this true?

OK, so it is true, but let’s get real here.  We have an industry that has been promoting cancer causing ultraviolet radiation for years and now they want to sell us tanning beds for the health benefit?

Tanning beds give off UVA radiation; the type of radiation that comes from the sun and causes burns is UVB radiation. Tanning beds, through this radiation, can cause skin cancer. Both types are dangerous, and tanning beds give off 10 times the amount of radiation that one would get from sun exposure.

Vitamin D is quite trendy right now. There is research showing many benefits to your health from having enough vitamin D, reducing cancer risks, boosting immunity, improving metabolism and preventing osteoporosis. There is little research to show that taking vitamin D actually improves your health. You can get enough vitamin D from a small amount of sun exposure (15 minutes three time per week on the hands and face) or a supplement, and true clinical deficiency is uncommon. When you go to a tanning bed, you actually get way more than you need and with a lot of associated risk!

It is alarming that the tanning bed industry is promoting vitamin D as a reason to use these cancer causing products.

HOUSE Calls is a weekly column by Dr. Cristy Page, Dr. Adam Zolotor, and Dr. Adam Goldstein on behalf of YOUR HEALTH™ and the UNC Department of Family Medicine.

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