January 28, 2009

Possible Link Between Suntan Injections, Changing Skin Moles

Injections of melanotan used to produce a suntan may be causing changes in skin moles, doctors in Britain warned on Wednesday.

A growing number of people in Britain are injecting themselves with the drug, which boosts levels of melanin, the body's natural pigment that produces a tan.

A recent report published in the British Medical Journal cited two patients who reported changes in skin moles shortly after injecting themselves with melanotan.

One patient, a 42-year-old woman, had two moles on her foot that had grown larger and darkened over a three week time period following the injection. The other patient, a 30-year-old woman who had also injected melanotan in recent weeks, reported that moles on her back had grown rapidly darker. Both had visited the Salford Royal Hospital in Britain, and were regular sunbed users with tans.

While fast-changing moles can be an indication of skin cancer, none of the moles on either patient were found to be malignant. However,  doctors believe a growing number of patients will likely seek medical help for the problem, and inquiring about melanotan injections could help reveal the cause of such changes.

Although the drug is not licensed for use in Britain, melanotan can be easily purchased over the Internet.

The UK Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority recently expressed their concern about the drug, warning of the possibility the injections could be contaminated or carry infection.

And a spokesman for the British Skin Foundation said the latest report should "serve as a strong warning" that people should steer clear of the untested injections.

"People may think that this drug is a safe alternative to sunbeds and sunbathing because it doesn't require UV light," he told BBC News.

"They may even think it offers sun protection, but the protection offered by a natural tan is minimal, and when it comes to an injectable, unlicensed drug, we have no idea what side effects it may incur."

"The product hasn't yet undergone the necessary safety tests to be legally sold in this country."

"There are other ways to get a tan without the risks of using an unregulated product, so until it gets the all clear for use on humans, stick to spray tans and self tanning lotions instead."


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