Cancer Risk From Nail Salon Lamps
May 1, 2014

Researchers Find Minimal Skin Cancer Risk From Nail Salon Lamps

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

Nail salons use powerful UV lamps to dry and cure nail polish and a new study in JAMA Dermatology has found these lamps actually emit harmful radiation – although an unusually high amount of exposure would be necessary to cause serious damage.

“I wouldn’t tell a patient to stop going unless they were going multiple times a month,” study author Dr. Lyndsay Shipp, from Georgia Regents University in Augusta, told Reuters Health.

In the study, researchers tested 17 different salon lamps, representing a range of bulbs, wattage and irradiance emitted. The researchers calculated that it would take between 8 and more than 200 visits, based on the device, to damage skin in a way that increases cancer risk.

Shipp noted that the lamps have raised some concern about the risk of cancer in the past, but previous research lacked a sampling of lights from actual salons.

“Our data suggest that, even with numerous exposures, the risk for skin cancer, remains small,” Shipp said in a recent statement. “That said, we concur with previous authors in recommending use of physical blocking sunscreens or UV-A protective gloves to limit the risk of skin cancer and photo aging.”

UV-A is one of three kinds of UV ray. It ages the skin, causes wrinkles and destroys DNA strands inside of skin cells, potentially triggering cancer. The lamps tested by the scientists differed in their power levels, but typically lamps with greater wattages release greater levels of UV-A radiation.

The researchers said it would take 11 exposures, on average, to raise the risk of skin cancer – based on how much UV-A radiation is needed to cause genetic damage.

Dr. Alina Markova, a Boston University dermatology resident who did not participate in the new report, told Reuters Health that it is also critical to mention that DNA damage doesn’t mean the individual will develop cancer.

“While we’re starting to realize these UV nail lamps are relatively safe, we still need to realize that the artificial UV devices that are hazardous are tanning beds,” she said.

Shipp agreed that nail salon lamps appear to be fairly safe. “Personally, I won’t stop getting manicures myself,” she said.

While men aren’t known for frequenting nail salons as much as women, a report published in February found that men, and single men in particular, are the most likely to die from skin cancer. The report was based on cutaneous malignant melanomas diagnosed in Sweden between 1990 and 2007.

“We were able to show that living alone among men is significantly associated with a reduced melanoma-specific survival, partially attributed to a more advanced stage at diagnosis,” said Dr. Hanna Eriksson, an oncologist at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. “Our study shows that this applies to men of all ages, regardless of their level of education and place of residence.”

The scientists also discovered that older women living by themselves tended to have a more advanced stage of the disease at diagnosis, but for single living women as a group – there wasn't any effect on the melanoma-specific prognosis.

“This points to a need for targeted interventions for earlier detection of cutaneous malignant melanoma in men and older individuals since this is critical for surviving the disease. By way of example, procedures are needed for skin examinations of these patients in connection with other doctor visits or check-ups,” Eriksson said.