Many women get their nails done a couple of times a month at a local salon. They daydream as they sit with their nails under those small UV lights to hasten the drying of their nail polish or acrylics and think nothing of this common ritual. Apparently, we should be thinking about how much UV exposure our hands receive as two cases have been found where the UV lights possibly caused skin cancer of the hand.
Doctors at the Anderson Cancer Center at University of Texas reported they had two middle-aged women patients who did not have a personal or family history of skin cancer but both developed non-melanoma (the less serious form of skin cancer) squamous cell lesions on their hands. The doctors questioned whether their use of nail UV lights had contributed.
The first woman had a single squamous cell cancer lesion removed from her index finger and the other woman needed to have four separate surgeries over several years to remove squamous cell cancers in various areas on the backs of her hands. The first woman had had her nails exposed to UV light twice a month for 15 years. The other had multiple exposures in one year, approximately eight years before her first skin cancer.
With only two cases, it would be hard to draw solid conclusions that nail UV lights cause skin cancer, but nail UV lights do operate like miniature tanning beds. Tanning beds predominately emit UVA light, the same as nail lights do so with frequent use, one’s hands are getting a fair amount of UV exposure. The risk of getting skin cancer is higher from cumulative exposure to UV light, which is why it is so important to have children start wearing sunscreen at an early age.
UV nail lamps have become more popular to cure UV gel nails or dry acrylic nails but they can also be used to dry nail polish during pedicures or manicures. Nail UV lights are also used to cure the top coat sealer used to protect artificial nails from yellowing. Acrylic nails require a two-part process, which partially dries in seconds but UV light is used to speed up the final hardening. UV gel nails are popular due to their high gloss finish and flexibility but require UV light to harden.
There probably is no way to truly know if preventive practices will reduce the incidence of hand cancer since it can take years before the results of excess UV rays may develop into cancer. At the same time, it requires little effort to provide a little protection.
Wear sunscreen on your hands or feet before going to the salon or if they will be doing a hand/foot massage, put on sunscreen 20 minutes before gels, acrylics or polishes are applied. If just having polish done, let nails air dry and avoid the UV light altogether.
Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues. Other articles by Michele are at www.helium.com/users/487540/show_articles