Thursday 13 December 2018

New drug that creates 'real sun tan' could reduce cancer risk

Sun loungers. Photo: Deposit
Sun loungers. Photo: Deposit

Daniel O'Connor

A new drug that causes a person’s skin to tan while also dramatically reducing the risk of skin cancer has been developed, scientists have said.

As well darkening the skin, scientists who worked on the drug known as a SIK inhibitor, claim that it will reduce the incidence of cancers such as melanoma by creating a dark form of the pigment melanin.

Melanin causes UV rays on the skin to dissolve, which limits the radiation damage in cells that is often the first step towards cancerous cells developing.

According to the study documented in the Cell Report journal, when this drug is rubbed on skin it is able to create melanin in the skin without it being exposed to light containing these harmful rays.

It is also claimed that this same process could result in slowing the ageing appearance of the skin.

Speaking to BBC News, Professor David Fisher, the leader of a group of scientists at the Massachusetts General Hospital who oversaw the drug’s creation spoke about the effect it could have.

"Our real goal is a novel strategy for protecting skin from UV radiation and cancer,” Fisher said.

"Dark pigment is associated with a lower risk of all forms of skin cancer - that would be really huge."

The drug has worked successfully in tests on skin samples and mice, with the report claiming that made will even work on redheads with fair skin prone to burning.

During testing, application of the drug on ginger mice saw them turn jet black within two days, before fading a week later.

However, Professor Fisher refuses to label its drugs effect as a fake tan.

“It would not actually be a fake tan, it would be the real thing,” Fisher said. “It would just be sunless.”

The team of scientists now want to combine the drug with suncream to provide maximum protection against the sun, as the team look to continue with human trials.

However, Fisher also warned against the use of the drug as simply another means of cosmetically enhancing a person’s skin.

“It’s obviously critical that safety and toxicity studies need to be done. This is not a toy, it’s not a cosmetic.”

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