A drug that provides a long-lasting tan has proven to reduce sun damage in fair-skinned users and could be available within three years.

The drug, Melanotan, increases levels of the pigment melanin and provides a tan within three weeks.

An Australian trial involving 80 volunteers has found that the drug benefits people who normally suffer from sunburn, reducing sun damage by up to 50%.

While a tan is healthy, protecting against sunburn, getting tanned is dangerous.

Recognizing this, researchers at the University of Arizona in Tucson developed a potent synthetic version of alpha-melanocyte stimulating hormone in the mid-1980s.

The synthetic hormone, which they called Melanotan, triggers tanning.

The researchers developed two versions. One was found to have spontaneous erection as a side effect and is now being investigated for erectile dysfunction.

The other spawned the creation of MelanoTan Corporation in the US in 1995, which decided to work with Melbourn, Australia-based EpiTan in 1998 because of the high rates of skin cancer in Australia.

More here.