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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 December, 2003, 12:23 GMT
Suntan could come 'in an implant'
Sunbather
This could be replaced by an implant
Scientists have devised an implant that could give you a suntan without the need to spend hours perfecting the perfect colour.

It is claimed that Melanotan develops a tan in three weeks by increasing the amount of the pigment melanin in the skin.

The company behind the drug, Epitan, claims the tan lasts for around three months.

And it says the drug also protects fair-skinned people against sunburn.

The danger of a product like Melanotan is that it may give people a false sense of security when out in the sun
Professor Lesley Walker, Cancer Research UK
It has published results of two studies into the effects of Melanotan.

In one study, six people were given a biodegradable implant containing Melanotan, which was shown to be safe.

Further research will increase doses of the drug.

Comparison

In a second study, 80 people with different skin types took part in research to see if Melanotan could protect against sunburn.

They received controlled levels of UVA and UVB radiation onto a small area of the skin, equivalent to spending 30 to 120 minutes in strong sun without sunscreen without any treatment.

Sixty were then given Melanotan for 10 days each month, for three months, 20 were given a dummy version.

They were again exposed to the same amount of UV radiation.

Scientists from Sydney University, carrying out the research on behalf of Epitan, found Melanotan reduced sunburn injury in fair-skinned people by 50%.

Professor Ross Barnetson, who led the study, said: "The fair-skinned people who took Melanotan had half the skin damage after the study compared to before the study.

"The results showed that fair-skinned people who have developed a tan are less likely to burn."

Complacency warning

But Dr Lesley Walker, of Cancer Research UK, said: "Work on melanin stimulating drugs has been of interest in the treatment of skin conditions like vitiligo, which are associated with lack of normal pigmentation.

"However we would be concerned if such drugs were promoted to people without a medical condition for cosmetic reasons.

"The danger of a product like Melanotan is that it may give people a false sense of security when out in the sun.

"Though the makers of Melanotan say they would recommend users to apply sunscreen before going out in the sun this may be ignored by many in the mistaken belief that a suntan itself offers protection against sunburn and DNA damaged skin.

"People who tan deeply and never burn can still get skin cancer."


SEE ALSO:
Sun 'protects against cancer'
21 Nov 03  |  Health
Sun lotions 'are not effective'
29 Sep 03  |  Health
Skin cancer risk 'still ignored'
10 May 03  |  Health


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