Cancer

Could UV Lights at Nail Salons Raise Skin Cancer Risk?

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I recently found out about a report that’s got me thinking. Published in the Archives of Dermatology (2009; 145(4)), it raised a concern about those UV lights that are used in nail salons. For those of you who may not know, the UV is added to the dryer fan to add to the convenience of your visit so you don’t have to sit there forever waiting for the polish to dry.

I never thought about it before, but UV light is UV light—the same stuff that’s in sunlight and tanning beds. In other words, it’s the same stuff that increases your risk of skin cancer the more you’re exposed to it—alarming to me since I go get manicures weekly! (I bring my own non-toxic Aquarella nail polish, of course.)

The lead author of the report is Deborah F. MacFarlane, M.D. She started getting concerned when a couple of her patients with skin cancer on their hands admitted that they regularly had their nails done. Both had used the UV nail lights. Dr. MacFarlane wondered: could there be a connection?

“A common piece of equipment found in almost all nail salons is the UV nail lamp,” she writes in her report. “The UV emitted from the nail lights is predominantly UV-A, similar to tanning beds.” She goes on to say that these lights are used to cure UV gel nails, to dry traditional nail polish, and for UV top sealers or topcoats formulated to protect the nail. Exposure to UV light is a major risk factor for the development of melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancers, and we already know that tanning beds can damage DNA and cause skin cancers.

Dr. MacFarlane is the first to say that her observations are certainly not proof. She’s talking about two cases here, which isn’t nearly enough on which to base a conclusion. “Although no strong conclusions can be made from this limited case series,” she writes, “we suggest that exposure to UV nail light might also be considered when assessing potential skin cancer risks….”

It makes sense, right? I write about these things on my blog to create awareness about the possible dangers of certain chemicals so that you feel empowered to make an educated decision. Of course, cancer isn’t going to show up on everyone who uses the UV lights. But certain people who may already be at risk might want to take this report into consideration—people with a family history of cancer, or who go to the salon on a regular basis. It’s easy enough to avoid this particular danger—just air dry your nails, avoid UV-related products like gels and sealers, or simply turn off the UV light on the fan machine. It’s as easy as a click.

Personally, I’m glad to have become aware of this potential connection, and now I always turn off the UV light on my dryer!

Have you heard about this possible connection? What do you think?

Photo courtesy the lotus eaters via Flickr.com.