Thursday, October 26, 2006

Place in the sun for redheads?


Have that skin that burns but never tans?

Researchers at Harvard's Dana- Farber Cancer Institute and Children's Hospital Boston think they're close to developing a way of protecting fair-skinned people from skin cancer caused by sun exposure.

The study involved engineering a bunch of red-haired mice and applying a cream to them that turned on the tanning machinery in their skin cells. The compound, called forskolin, is derived from the root of the forskohlii plant, found in India. The mice involved in the experiment turned dark, proving that proper stimulation can cause even redheads to tan.

Because people who tan easily or have naturally dark skin are far less prone to skin cancer than fair- skinned people, the findings suggest, drug-induced tans can protect at-risk people from the disease.

The researchers say that sunless tanning may also keep people from sunbathing, further lowering the risk of skin cancer.

Melanoma is the fastest-increasing form of cancer in the world, accounting for 62,000 new U.S. cases every year and nearly 8,000 deaths, according to the American Cancer Society.

The study appears in the September Nature.

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