Technology 3 min read

Tanning this Summer? New Drug Lowers Risk of Skin Cancer

Sofia Zhuravetc |

Sofia Zhuravetc |

Edgy Labs covers the newest tech to come to tanning since the 1980’s and it just might save your life.

Giraffes’ purple tongues, a smoker’s darkened gums, the Australian aboriginal practice of covering the skin in ash–what do these have in common?

Civilizations, as well as organisms, have sought to protect themselves from the sun’s rays for millennia by altering their skin pigmentation.

Tanning with Drugs? Is this Real Science?

Last week, the BBC heralded an interview with scientists who have produced a drug capable of ensuring “a lower risk of all forms of skin cancer.”

Tests, published in the medical journal Cell Reports, show that the melanin produced as a result of the drug was able to prevent damage from harmful UV rays.

Dr. Fisher, a member of the research and discovery team at Massachusetts General Hospital who has long battled against disease, called the approach “a novel strategy for protecting skin from UV radiation and cancer.”

How does this differ from spray tans or fake tans?

Unlike tans that are applied like paint, “the drug tricks the skin into producing the brown form of the pigment melanin,” said researcher David Fisher.

Tanning beds achieve this effect somewhat, but UV light makes the skin tan by causing damage.

Fisher told the BBC, “under the microscope, it’s the real melanin, it really is activating the production of pigment in a UV-independent fashion.”

In other words, the drug offers all the benefits of tanning without the potentially harmful side effects.

Are Tanning Salons Dying in the US? Why?

In an interview with Bloomberg, Lori Crane–a professor at the Colorado School of Public Health and marketing researcher, said: “[it’s typical to see] more ads for spray tans than ultraviolet tanning.”

“When we looked at these companies’ social media posts, we expected to see them making claims that tanning is safe or healthy, and we saw almost none of that,” said Crane.

Later she emphasized, “I think the people in the tanning industry can see the writing on the wall.”

Healthy Tanning: Implications for the Future

This technique could be considered biomimicry because it simply leverages a naturally-occurring adaptive trait. 

It is also an example of how science and technology often help accelerate certain lines of evolution.

Many articles by marketers (including Bloomberg) discuss the emotions and social aspects of being “tan”. Could this skin tone trend push equality and ease race relations in our tense world?

Will tanning become more and more necessary as we transition away from living on Earth and are exposed to greater radiation?

In the past, pale skin was prized socially because it meant that one didn’t have to work outside/perform manual labor. Why is tanning now considered a desirable, or attractive, practice?

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