Arianne from Sydney, New South Wales, Australia asked:

Can the UV light used in shellac nail manicures cause cancer?

Can the UV light used in shellac nail manicures cause cancer?

Is the UV light used to speed dry shellac manicures as dangerous as sunbeds?

Our answer

We know that overexposure to artificial sources of UV radiation, such as sunbeds (solariums), can increase the risk of skin cancer. As nail lamps also use UV radiation, concerns have also been expressed about their potential to increase the risk of skin cancer. Unfortunately, not enough research exists to prove or disprove the claim. To date, just one company has commissioned testing of their nail lamps, which were found to emit low levels of UVA. The testing concluded that six hours of exposure under the lamps that only emit 18W of power is equivalent to 10 minutes in the sun. Conversely, a recent US study in the state of Utah found that 10 minutes exposure to the lamps tested was equivalent to eight hours of UVA exposure in the sun for a typical outdoor worker. However, UV lamps vary in scale, shape and how they operate. Another study found that most nail lamps produce from 4W to 54W of power, depending on the model. In 2009, a journal article reported two healthy middle-aged women in the US with no personal or family history of skin cancer developed non melanoma skin cancers on their hands. Both women reported previous exposure to UV nail lights. Australians live in a high UV radiation environment and there is good evidence that UVA radiation contributes to both skin cancer risk and skin ageing. Exposing any part of the body to additional artificial sources of UV radiation is likely to add to the risk of skin cancer, particularly if that area of skin has already received excessive UV exposure (eg. through sunburn). Cancer Council believes further investigation is needed to ascertain the safety of UV nail lamps in Australia. Until they are proven safe, avoidance is justified. Many salons now offer fingerless gloves, which are a good way of reducing the risk of UV exposure.

This page was last updated on: March 18, 2013

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