New Drug Could Give You a Real Tan & Prevent Cancer

Jun 14, 2017 at 10:46 a.m. ET
Image: Tom Merton/Getty Images

Good news for those who like the look of sun-kissed skin but aren’t big fans of cancer: You may now be able to get your tan from a new drug.

Scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital have developed a cream that makes your skin react like you’ve been lounging for hours in the afternoon sun, producing the brown pigmentation, but without any actual exposure to damaging UV radiation.

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Researchers say their evidence suggests that the drug will even work on redheads and those with fair skin, whose skin tends to burn in the sun. So far, this has worked on tests done on skin samples and mice.

Unlike the many self-tanning lotions currently lining the shelves of your local drugstore, this cream doesn’t simply “paint” the skin — it actually kick-starts the process of making melanin, making skin appear darker.

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"Under the microscope it's the real melanin, it really is activating the production of pigment in a UV-independent fashion,” Dr. David Fisher, one of the researchers, told the BBC.

It’s not just cosmetic — the melanin in your skin helps protect it from cancer by blocking harmful UV rays, which Fisher said is the main aim of this cream.

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

When the cream hits the market, the scientists behind the product want to combine it with sunblock to provide maximum protection from the sun.

Additionally, given the fact that sun damage is a leading cause of skin aging, this cream could be a game-changer for those who are only exposed to everyday UV rays, even if they don’t spend hours soaking in the sun each summer.

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"Medically it is very difficult to focus on, but if it is tremendously safe then it could keep skin healthier for longer," Fisher said.

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