Scientists from Massachusetts General Hospital have developed a drug that mimics sunlight to make the skin tan, with no damaging UV radiation involved.
According to researchers, the drug tricks the skin into producing the brown form of the pigment melanin in tests on skin samples and mice.
Evidence suggests the drug will work even on redheads, who normally just burn in the sun.
The team hopes the discovery could prevent skin cancer and even slow the appearance of ageing.
UV light makes the skin tan by causing damage.
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This kicks off a chain of chemical reactions in the skin that ultimately leads to dark melanin – the body’s natural sun block – being made.
The drug is rubbed into the skin to skip the damage and kick-start the process of making melanin.
It is a markedly different approach to fake tan, which “paints” the skin without the protection from melanin, sun beds, which expose the skin to UV light or pills that claim to boost melanin production but still need UV light.
However, the team is not motivated by making a new cosmetic.
Tests, detailed in the journal Cell Reports, have shown the melanin produced by the drug was able to block harmful UV rays.
Eventually the scientists want to combine their drug with sun-cream to give maximum protection from solar radiation.
The way the drug works could also allow a ginger tan, as the genetic mutation that causes red hair and fair skin disrupts the normal process where UV light leads to dark melanin.
It is not yet clear if the drug might have the unintended consequence of affecting the glorious hair color, but it is thought the hair follicle is too deep in the skin for the drug to reach.
Anyway, whether you are ginger, blonde or brunette, the drug is not yet ready for commercial use.
According to a new research, sunscreen alone should not be relied on to prevent malignant melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer.
The British researchers back public health campaigns calling for sunscreen to be combined with other ways to protect the skin from sun, such as hats and shade.
The new study, an animal research, published in Nature, reveals more about how UV light induces cancer in skin cells.
Sun exposure is a well-known risk factor for melanoma skin cancer.
Researchers say sunscreen should be combined with other ways to protect the skin from sun, such as hats and shade
But, until now, the molecular mechanism by which UV light damages DNA in skin cells has been unclear.
In the new study, scientists at the University of Manchester looked at the effects of UV light on the skin of mice at risk of melanoma.
This allowed them to examine the effects of sunscreen in blocking the disease.
“UV light targets the very genes protecting us from its own damaging effects, showing how dangerous this cancer-causing agent is,” said lead researcher Prof. Richard Marais.
“Very importantly, this study provides proof that sunscreen does not offer complete protection from the damaging effects of UV light.
“This work highlights the importance of combining sunscreen with other strategies to protect our skin, including wearing hats and loose fitting clothing, and seeking shade when the sun is at its strongest.”
The researchers found that UV light caused faults in the p53 gene, which normally helps protect the body from the effects of DNA damage.
The study also showed that sunscreen could reduce the amount of DNA damage caused by UV, delaying the development of melanoma in mice.
But it found sunscreen did not offer complete protection and UV light could still induce melanoma, although at a reduced rate.
Another concern is the fact that any post-sunburn inflammation has the potential to cause cancer cells to migrate. According a study conducted at the University of Bonn in Germany, there is a strong link between UV-related skin inflammation and the spreading of cancer cells in blood vessels. Essentially this means that a bad sunburn can spread cancer from organ to organ, and it does this through the alteration of pigment cells in the dermis. Thankfully, ointments such as mometasone are able to swiftly end inflammation brought on by too much sun.