False Nails: Can Salon UV Cause Cancer?

A recent report has highlighted the possibility of UVA equipment commonly used in nail salons contributing to skin cancer. The high doses of UVA rays are suspected of being able to potentially cause skin cell damage, after two women in America were diagnosed with skin cancer on their hands following regular nail salon treatments.

One woman who was otherwise in good health was said to have needed surgery to remove several cancers from her right hand after having UV light treatment at nail salons on eight different occasions in one year.

Another middle aged nail salon regular developed a tumour on her hand – she had been using UV nail salon lamps twice a month for 15 years. Dermatologists at the University of Texas have called for investigations into the safety of the UV lamps used in nail salons, and suggested that women who use nail salons regularly should have their hands and fingers inspected regularly for any unusual growths or changes.

In both the reported skin cancer cases, the tumour was a squamous cell carcinoma, which is a less harmful type of tumour than a malignant melanoma. They are usually easily removed, although in a small percentage of cases, the cancer can spread to other parts of the body.

How Dangerous is UV Light?

UV nail lamps are usually used to ‘cure’ artificial gel nails but can also be used to cure acrylic nails and sometimes dry traditional nail polish. According to Caroline Cerny, campaign manager for Cancer Research UK’s Sunsmart campaign, “exposure to UV light is a major risk factor for the development of skin cancer” – but she acknowledged that it was too early to point the finger at nail salon lamps, based on just two cases of skin cancer.

Given that skin cancer is an extremely common cancer, with 8900 people in the UK being diagnosed with a deadly melanoma each year, it does pay to be cautious, even though a widespread panic about using nails salon lamps would be a bit premature without further research.

What Does The Nail Industry Say About Skin Cancer?

Not unsurprisingly, the nail industry has hit back at the reports about nail salon UV lamps being a risk factor for skin cancer. A spokeswoman said that she believed the scare mongering reports about nail extensions giving women cancer were both unsubstantiated and irresponsible. She explained:

“It really annoys me when the press blows stories like this out of proportion. It happens a lot and this one is ridiculous. Two women have developed skin cancer out of millions of women who have nail extensions every year.”

She added that these cases had come to light in America, where the standards and guidelines were less advanced than those in the UK, and refuted comparisons to the cancer risks from sun beds, saying that putting your hand under a nail salon UV lamp for up to one minute was not like lying on a sun bed, as the wattage of the bulbs in nail salon lamps is low and they are only used on a client for a short amount of time.

The media will be following this story in coming months, so whether the risk is actually worth worrying about or is in fact negligible, remains to be seen. It’s highly unlikely that the millions of women who enjoy having their nails done will panic about two isolated cases…

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