If you listen enough to mainstream media, then you might have a serious fear of the sun. There is no doubt that extreme sun exposure is probably not great for us, but is all sun exposure to every degree hideously bad for our health? Or, is fear of sun exposure a massively lucrative industry? Well, when you look at the billions of annual dollars that the sunscreen industry rakes in, you might have your first clue as to what that answer is.
Now that the public is sold that the sun is evil, pharmaceutical companies have an open path to push as much product as they want. Typically, however, that’s been in the way of sunblock and sunscreen products. This time, it’s a sun pill. In what might sound like a prop medication on a Stanley Kubrick movie set, a new pill is being marketed to essentially make going in the sun unnecessary (I mean, from a vanity standpoint).
This new compound will give a person a tan without them ever having to expose themselves to the sun. Super preppers, rejoice, you no longer have to fear looking all pale during a post-apocalyptic nuclear winter.
A protein called salt-inducible kinase (SIK) blocks out melanin pigment production, which makes you tan. So taking SIK could me getting tan without the sun’s presence.
According to ScienceMag.org (here), the compound has yet to be tested in clinical trials. But it sure seems like science is pretty excited, nonetheless.
“Assuming there are no safety concerns, it is clearly a better option than UV exposure,” says Jerod Stapleton, a behavioral scientist at the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey in New Brunswick who studies indoor tanning and was not involved in the work. “We are talking about millions of young people potentially not using tanning beds each year. … It could be a game-changer for skin cancer prevention.”
When pitched as a way to avoid tanning beds, sure, it sounds blissful. But the real motive here would be sun avoidance. I suppose we’d just infuse our water supplies with vitamin D?
The science here was discovered accidentally via redheaded (red furred) rodents. These specific rodents have a gene called MC1R which causes their hair to become red, and creates a fair skin in humans. This MC1R gene encodes a receptor that rests on skin cell’s surface named melanocytes. Melanocytes send a signal to produce the darker melanin pigments. And these pigments, according to science, help protect us from UV rays. The redheaded receptor doesn’t make more melanin via a signal, and this is why redheads burn more.
According to ScienceMag.org
David Fisher, a dermatologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, reasoned that he could help people tan by finding a way to stimulate this melanin making pathway. He and chemist Nathanael Gray of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston targeted a protein called salt-inducible kinase (SIK), which works like a master off switch in the melanin factory. They bought a molecule known to inhibit SIK from a chemical supplier and applied the compound as a liquid to the shaven backs of the redhead mice. After seven days of daily treatment, the mouse skin turned “almost jet black,” Fishers says. The tan was reversible though, and the rodents’ skin tone returned mostly back to normal in about two weeks. Fisher notes that were no apparent safety concerns, but this would need to be tested more rigorously before human application.
Could this end up passing clinical trials and become a reality? Sales would be through the roof, so my immediate assumption is that it most certainly could. People sure love to be tan. It’s our culture no matter how little sense it makes. Imagine all the teens loading up on sun pills months before their proms.
We live in a vitamin D deficient society, and it would seem that we aren’t going to get any closer to resolving it. Vitamin D deficiency, it could be argued, contributes to skin cancers and various other cancers. What causes what anymore?
How To Lower Skin Cancer Risks
Stop going out at high times for sun exposure. 10 am to 3 pm is high time. Cover up. Wear long sleeves. Many surf companies are now making outdoor rash guards that cut down UV exposure greatly. Hats, even big hats, are your friend if you do have to be out in it. There really is common sense at play here.
Some people believe in non-toxic solutions for sunscreen. Read our Sunscreen ingredient warning article. Oh, and check this out.