We get tons of magazines and I am a slow reader. This weekend I finally started looking through my December 2006 issue of Scientific American and came across this little gem.
Sun seekers and tanning-bed junkies take note: Researchers have induced honest-to-goodness suntans in mice without exposing them to ultraviolet (UV) rays. Instead, they rubbed a lotion into the critters' skin that activated their tanning machinery, which then protected the mice from UV's cancer-causing effects. The animals carried a mutation making them fair skinned and unable to tan otherwise, like human redheads, suggesting that a similar tanning trick might help even the pastiest of us bask in the sun without worry....
"It's a very elegant study," says skin cancer researcher Meenhard Herlyn of the University of Pennsylvania. "We can now test new compounds to induce pigmentation, and that has major ramifications for the future prevention of skin cancer. It makes me quite optimistic." Others note the value added by studying the right mouse. "This is an incredibly good example of how mouse models can be used to gain insight into human disease or prevention," says Glenn Merlino of the National Cancer Institute.
This is a good article because it is an opportunity to apply my four criteria for when I am willing to shut my mouth and acquiesce to animal testing (in the ideal world, animal testing wouldn't happen at all, but we will never be in an ideal world.)
Here is my criteria.
Is it really related to a critical HEALTHCARE issue? In other words, is it research related to cancer, leukemia, AIDS, etc? Or is it research related to household products or cosmetics?
Is it the ONLY alternative? Is there no other way to test? No cells grown in cultures, etc.
Is it UNIQUE? In other words, has this research already been conducted and you are thus conducting a repetitive experiment?
Is the care of the animal HUMANE? If you are going to sacrifice this animal, then you must respect it and care for it. Give it stimulus, a comfortable environment, food, and water?
As for sunless suntanning, it doesn't even get past criteria 1. I like how the scientists use the phrase "future prevention of skin cancer."
Here's a great way to avoid skin cancer from tanning...use your head!
I have a problem testing on animals so humans can get their vanity fix with browning their skin in a toaster. As an olive-skinned woman, fortunately, I don't have that problem. But to me, this is really an issue of cosmetic vanity and not worthy of animal sacrifice.
If you don't want to get skin cancer, don't spend hours in the sun and don't go to a tanning salon multiple times for hours on end. Is this type of experimentation really for human health or for the suntan industry? We don't need to spend more government money in order to further lessen human responsibility for their own bad decisions.