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Health warning over dangerous tanning products

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Sheena Meredith
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30th August 2013 - A medicines watchdog is warning of the health risks of using unlicensed tanning injections containing Melanotan.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) says it has received 18 reports since 2008 detailing 74 separate reactions which are suspected to be side effects linked to the use of Melanotan. These include stomach and heart problems as well as blood and eye disorders.

The products are being offered to people in gyms, beauty and tanning salons, as well as being sold through the Internet. Nasal sprays containing Melanotan are also being marketed.

'Don't be fooled'

Lynda Scammell, the Agency's senior policy advisor for enforcement, says the public need to be wary if they are tempted by a quick-fix pre or post-holiday tan. "People should not be fooled that this is a shortcut to getting a tan safely," she says in a statement.

Products called Melanotan I, Melanotan II and Ubertan work by increasing the levels of melanin which is the body’s natural protection from the sun and result in tanned skin. “These tanning products have not been approved for use in the UK and there are no guarantees that they are safe, of an acceptable quality or effective in use," says Lynda Scammell. "They have the potential to cause serious side-effects," she adds.

The MHRA is also warning that because the products can be self-injected, they carry the risk of cross-contamination and infections.

Protecting the public

The Agency has closed down 72 websites offering to supply Melanotan to UK customers within the last three months and says it continues to monitor the situation. It says anyone who has suffered side-effects which they suspect may be as a result of using this product should report it via the Agency's Yellow Card Scheme.

The MHRA has repeatedly warned the public about the dangers of using unlicensed tanning products. In 2011 it highlighted the potential health risks of sunless tanning treatment, Ubertan, which it found being sold illegally in gyms, beauty salons and online in the form of a nasal spray.

Nina Goad of the British Association of Dermatologists comments in a statement: "It is worrying that people seem to be ignoring the warnings about tanning injections. There are several reports of people’s health suffering as a result of using such products, which illustrates why people should stick with safer ways of getting a tan, such as self tanning lotions.

"The very fact that it is illegal for sale in the UK should serve as the strongest warning against injecting a substance into your body for which we don’t yet have the full safety data."

Reviewed on August 30, 2013

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