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Sunless Tanner May Protect Skin
09-21-2006, 07:59 PM,
#1
Sunless Tanner May Protect Skin
Quote:Sunless tanner may protect skin

A Boston cancer doctor has found a sunless tanning chemical that can make fair-skinned people produce real skin pigment, protecting their skin against cancer from sun exposure.

So far it has only been tested in mice, but Dr. David Fisher says pale blondes and redheads everywhere have reason to hope for a genuine tan not just dye and sun protection at the same time.

Caucasian people who tan a deep brown are producing a skin pigment called melanin. It's triggered by ultraviolent light from the sun, or a tanning studio.

Very fair-skinned people have a genetic defect that won't let them produce enough pigment to tan. They tend to burn instead.

In his lab mice, Fisher has found a plant extract called forskolin that stimulates these fair-type skin cells to make pigment for the first time. He wants to test it in humans.

He'll still be in favour of using sunscreen, he says.

``But if there is perhaps an additional strategy, a different layer which can be added to that sunblock strategy in which skin pigment is stimulated to darken the skin, then perhaps that will add to the protection.''

Fair-skinned people have a higher risk of skin cancer, and traditional bottled tan is just a dye that probably does nothing to protect them, he said. But true skin pigment is different.

The tan from his new lotion, he says, proved to be nearly as good a protection against skin cancer as having naturally black skin. The results are published today in the journal Nature.

Fisher is a cancer specialist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. His team used a home-made lotion containing extract from an Indian coleus plant (not the type sold by florists here) and gave mice a few weeks of treatment once a day.

They darkened slowly in a natural-looking tan. It's not a fake tan, he says; it's a real tan, since this is exactly the same pigment that exposure to sunlight produces with two differences. These mice weren't getting any sun. And normally they wouldn't tan in the sun anyway; this mouse type has a completely defective tanning gene and would burn like a red-haired Irish person in the Sahara.

What's more, these mice are extremely cancer-prone. They lack the ability to repair damaged DNA, and DNA damage is how skin cancer begins.

Fisher put the tanned mice and un-tanned mice from the same type under heavy doses of UV light for 20 weeks. The difference in results, he says now, was ``really quite huge.''

Fair-skinned mice were already developing tumours by the time the 20 weeks of tanning ended, and many died by the time he ended the experiment. But all the tanned mice lasted three to four months longer without any tumours, which Fisher calls ``a profound delay'' for such cancer-prone mice, and they developed fewer tumours overall.

Without lotion, the tan slowly faded.

Human trials will take several years. In the meantime, he said, don't go trying coleus plant juice because no one knows how safe it is.

Src
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