Getting a gel manicure may increase skin cancer risk: Study

Experts have warned people to apply sunscreen to their hands 20 minutes before getting a manicure. Source: Getty

Gel nail polish revolutionsed nail care for ladies who like to keep their hands groomed.

But a new study published in the Australasian Journal of Dermatology has found that the UV nail lamps, usually used to harden gel nail polish (also known as Shellac and by other brand names) have the potential to cause skin cancer. Researchers from the University Hospital Galway in Ireland said that the lamps use light similar to that found in UV tanning beds.

Researchers acknowledged that the public tend to be confused when it comes to the cancer risk associated with the nail lamps, particularly because so many tanning beds across Australia have been banned after they were found to contribute to cancer.

As a precaution, authors of the study warned people to apply sunscreen to their hands around 20 minutes before having a manicure and exposing their fingers to potentially harmful UV lights. They also noted that fingerless gloves could be effective. At present, people usually expose each hand to the UV nail lamps for five minutes at a time, but can be doing so as regularly as every fortnight. This may be increasing the risk of cancer.

The study cited a recent online poll which asked the public about their experience with UV lights at nail salons. Of the 424 people who completed the survey, 72 per cent said they believed there was an increased cancer risk with the use of UV nail lamps. A further 82 per cent of respondents said they wouldn’t continue to use the lights if they knew there was an increased risk of cancer.

Read more: Five natural remedies for strong and shiny nails

It also pointed out that just three per cent of people apply sunscreen before getting a manicure and that fewer are advised by staff at nail salons to do so. “These results demonstrate that the public appears to be confused about the carcinogenic potential of these nail lamps,” the authors of the paper wrote. “The evidence on this subject is variable and often controversial, leaving the health-care provider with no clear conclusion, and further research is warranted.”

Dr Brad McKay, famous for appearing on the Australian version of Embarrassing Bodies, appeared on the Today Show on Wednesday morning to discuss the health risks associated with UV lights at nail salons. He noted that solariums across the country have been shut down because they increased the risk of cancer, but said that many other UV machines are still in use.

“We still do have some UV machines in different areas, he said, adding that you’d need to expose your hands under the light for long periods of time for damage to be reordered. “If you’re just putting your nails in there for a few minutes, normally it’s about five minutes to set the gel and set your nails, then your risk is going to be pretty small,” he said.

“Some of the estimates are saying you’d need to have your hands in there for about 30 minutes to really cause any significant problems, but it’s also if you’re going back every week or having multiple treatments that the UV light can sort of accumulate over time.”

What do you think? Are you worried that getting a manicure may be increasing your risk of cancer? Would you wear sunscreen on your hands if you thought it would protect you against cancer?

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