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Tanning without the sun or a booth? Scientists find a way


Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Friday, June 16, 2017, 10:08 AM - There's usually no way around it: If you want a tan, you're going to have to go out and get one, whether it's sitting in the sun or paying up in a tanning booth.

And though the result might be a lovely golden brown tint to your skin, you're exposing yourself to harmful UV radiation, raising the risk of skin cancer if you don't take proper steps to protect yourself.

But after decades of studying, scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital are making progress on a third option: A compound that causes the skin to darken without exposure to UV rays at all.

"We need to conduct safety studies, which are always essential with potential new treatment compounds, and better understand the actions of these agents," the scientists said in a news release from the hospital. "But it’s possible they may lead to new ways of protecting against UV-induced skin damage and cancer formation."

RELATED VIDEO: What a 'tan-cam' can tell you about your skin danger

The research builds on an earlier 2006 effort that saw the skin of red-haired mice darken with the application of a compound called forskolin, but the effect was not replicated in human skin samples, which the scientists say was likely because human skin is five times thicker.

The latest effort took a different approach, with a different substance that had a greater effect on cultured skin when applied topically, inducing darkening over the course of a few days.

"Microscopic examination of the treated skin samples confirmed that eumelanin pigment was produced and deposited near the skin surface in patterns typical to what is seen with UV-induced pigmentation/tanning, suggesting activation of the same pigmentation pathway," the researchers say.

The study was published this month in the journal Cell Reports.

Exposure to the sun's UV rays can increase the risk of developing skin cancer, which the Canadian Cancer Society says is the most common cancer. The society says 90 per cent of melanoma cases are induced by UV radiation.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Man smashes car window in Grand Bend, Ont., to save trapped dog

SOURCES: Massachusetts General Hospital | Cell Reports | Canadian Cancer Society

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