The 'miracle pill' that makes your body tan itself

Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online

The sun is about to set on the tanning industry of northern Europe. Scientists have developed a "self-browning" implant which threatens to leave the sunbed and the spray-on tan in the shade.

The sun is about to set on the tanning industry of northern Europe. Scientists have developed a "self-browning" implant which threatens to leave the sunbed and the spray-on tan in the shade.

The revolutionary product, Melanotan, has already been shown to darken skin colour and reduce sun damage. Now the manufacturer, Epitan, is pressing for full clinical trials.

Melanotan works by mimicking the hormone that increases the production of melanin, the pigment which naturally darkens the skin as it protects against the sun.

Volunteers who took part in an earlier, mid-stage trial reported that their skin had turned brown. Other studies have reported increased sex drive, leading to its depiction as a "paradise pill".

But Epitan is likely to play down any such side-effects to conform with strict drug licensing rules.

The company, which is listed on London's Alternative Investment Market, claims its product is medical, not cosmetic, but it is preparing to destroy the sunbed industry. "We tolerate it in the same way that we tolerate cigarettes, but you are twice as likely to get skin cancer from the tanning salons than the beach," said its chief executive, Iain Kirkwood. "We can drive the tanning salons out of business."

Epitan is in the process of raising £15m for the trials. If they go well, the implants could be on the market in this country in 2007.

The struggle to darken pasty Anglo-Saxon skin has become part of the British condition. One NHS survey found that nearly 7 per cent of eight- to 11-year-olds had used sunbeds in the past year, despite recommendations by Cancer Research UK that nobody under 16 should ever use a sunbed.

In a recent study published in the British Journal of Dermatology, 17 per cent of sunbed users admitted having more than 100 sessions a year - an addiction that led professionals to coin a new term, "tanorexia".

It is a dangerous trend. Every year 1,600 people in Britain die because of malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. The British Medical Association says that sunbed users are 20 per cent more likely to develop skin cancer for every decade of regular use before the age of 56.

The World Health Organisation published a report last month calling on governments to introduce new legislation banning under-18s from tanning salons. There are 8,000 solariums in the UK.

The WHO also said the number of salons should be regulated and that workers should receive training to recognise vulnerable groups - such as people with large numbers of moles or who freckle easily.

There are more than 100,000 cases of skin cancer reported in Britain each year, and about 2,000 deaths linked to the disease.

Even the Prime Minister is not immune. When Tony Blair appeared at a press conference last week looking suspiciously golden, he insisted he had caught the sun while working hard in his garden. But experts accused him of using fake tan.

Lisa Fulton, a tanning expert at a favoured celebrity fake tan company, Fake Bake, praised the premier's youthful vigour, saying, "Well done for being a modern man!"

But the Opposition jumped on the news. "It looks like his tan is as phoney as his promises," remarked a Conservative Party spokesman.

Comments