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Health Spotlight: Preventing skin cancer

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A new development has been described as a protective tan in a tube.

Scientists say it may be a healthier way to sport a glow and protect a person’s skin at the same time.

As many as 97,000 Americans will develop melanoma this year, and almost 8,000 will die from it.

Scientists at the University of Cincinnati are developing a cream that will increase pigmentation in a person’s skin while repairing skin cells damaged by sun exposure.

Want to get a healthy tan, avoid wrinkles, and protect yourself from skin cancer at the same time? Researcher Dr. Zalfa Abdel-Malek, a doctor of dermatology and a professor at the University of Cincinnati, has spent the past 25 years determining the best way to do just that.

She said, “It all started with interest in understanding how normal human pigmentation is regulated.”

Abdel-Malek and her team focused on a receptor in skin cells known as MC1R that controls skin color or pigmentation. The team is developing a topically applied cream that would start a sunless tanning process.

“What you’re doing with our peptides is you’re activating your skin’s natural ability to increase pigmentation. So, when you go out in the sun, you’re not gonna have the drastic and dangerous effects of sun exposure.”

Abdel-Malek says the team’s product would be better than commercially available spray tans, which color the skin, but don’t activate those receptors that reduce DNA damage.

Once scientists finalize the formula, the next step would be tests on human skin. Abdel-Malek says it could be commercially available in the next few years.

The researchers have established a startup company, MCR1 Ventures, to continue to develop the product and then move it toward production. Abel-Malek says the cream could also have an application for people who have lost pigmentation due to the condition vitiligo, which causes loss of skin color in patches.

This story was created from a script aired on WISH-TV.