Manicure lamps and increased risk of skin cancer? Not so fast

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344785_5749A typical scenario for getting a professional manicure involves exposing the freshly painted nails to a fan and ultraviolet (UV) light to dry and harden the polish. But there has been some concern that the lamps, which emit light in the UV-A spectrum, might increase the risk of skin cancer and aging. A recent study published in JAMA Dermatology suggests that such risks are minimal.

Dr. Lindsay R. Shipp of the Medical College of Georgia and College of Dental Medicine at Georgia Regents University and colleagues examined the emissions of seventeen drying lamps from sixteen nail salons. They measured the irradiance and wattage for each device from 5 different positions.

Among the devices tested, the researchers found a wide range of light source brands, wattage and number of light bulbs per device. They calculated the energy density per light, and compared that with the energy density known to cause damage to skin cells in culture (60 joules/cm2). For each device, they then calculated the number of exposures that would be required to reach the threshold for skin cell damage. These numbers varied widely from 8 to 208 visits.

Thus, the authors concluded that considering the low UV-A energy exposure in an average manicure visit, multiple visits would be required to reach the threshold for potential DNA damage. They did suggest, however, that manicure clients could use physical blocking sunscreens or UV-A protective gloves to limit any risk of damage to a patron s skin.

ACSH president Dr. Elizabeth Whelan had this to say, On the spectrum of risks to health, exposure to UV-A light at a manicure salon is way down at the lower end, according to these results. Simple means exist to assuage even these small concerns, and manicure patrons can easily take advantage of them if they so wish.