Scientists have developed a drug that can copy the effects of sunlight. The new drug tricks the skin into making it darker and giving us a suntan. The drug makes our body produce more of a natural pigment found in our skin called melanin. A pigment is something in our body that colours our skin. Plants also have pigments that give them different colours. The scientists are from the Massachusetts General Hospital in the USA. They say their new drug could have many benefits for our health. The biggest benefits could be to prevent skin cancer and perhaps even slow down how old people look. Too much sunlight and getting suntans can give us skin cancer, make our skin look old and give us many wrinkles.
Scientists say the drug can safely give people suntans because there are no damaging UV rays. When people are out in the sun, UV rays slowly burn our skin and damage it. The rays make lighter-skinned people turn red, unless those people use sunblock or cover their skin. The drug makes the body produce more dark melanin, which makes our skin look tanned. Melanin is the body's natural sunblock. Researcher Dr David Fisher said the drug could help fight skin cancer - the most common type of cancer. He said the drug could make our body produce more melanin. This could protect the skin from UV radiation and cancer. He said: "Dark pigment is associated with a lower risk of all forms of skin cancer."