For­get the sun. Some­day you could slather on a real tan

Modern Healthcare - - OUTLIERS ASIDES & INSIDES -

Get­ting that sun-kissed glow could some­day get a whole lot health­ier, with no need to bask in dan­ger­ous UV rays.

A team of re­searchers from Mas­sachusetts Gen­eral Hospi­tal in Bos­ton have cre­ated a top­i­cally ap­plied drug that stim­u­lates the pro­duc­tion of melanin, which dark­ens the skin. Un­der UV rays, the skin nat­u­rally pro­tects it­self against harm by ini­ti­at­ing a chem­i­cal re­ac­tion that pro­duces melanin; alas, those rays also age and dam­age the skin and can lead to deadly melanoma and other skin can­cers. Sun­less tan­ning lo­tions now on the mar­ket use a color ad­di­tive that lasts only a few days.

While a tan­ning drug may seem like a su­per­fi­cial goal, there are real ben­e­fits. Tests from the study showed that the melanin pro­duced by the drug suc­cess­fully pro­tected against UV rays known to cause liver spots, pre­ma­ture aging and skin can­cer, mean­ing a “sun­tan” drug could be preven­tive medicine for mil­lions of peo­ple. Re­sults of the study were pub­lished re­cently in Cell Re­ports.

The Skin Can­cer Foun­da­tion es­ti­mates that 1 in 5 Amer­i­cans will de­velop skin can­cer in their life­time, and that each year there are more new cases of skin can­cer than breast, prostate, lung and colon can­cer com­bined. One per­son dies of melanoma ev­ery hour in the U.S., with 86% of melanomas re­sult­ing from ex­po­sure to the sun.

“Our real goal is a novel strategy for pro­tect­ing skin from UV ra­di­a­tion and can­cer,” lead re­searcher Dr. David Fisher told the BBC. “Dark pig­ment is as­so­ci­ated with a lower risk of all forms of skin can­cer—that would be re­ally huge.”

So far the drug has only been tested on mice and skin sam­ples. The re­sults sug­gested that it could even work on the palest among us, redheads, whose skin is very fair due to a ge­netic mu­ta­tion that pre­vents it from pro­duc­ing melanin, mak­ing them more sus­cep­ti­ble to dan­ger­ous burn­ing.

In the mean­time, don’t for­get to use sun­screen.

Some­day loung­ing in the sun may not be nec­es­sary to get a tan.

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