UV light from manicure lamps increase users’ risk of skin cancer

Most view manicures and pedicures as forms of indulgence — a rare luxury for a struggling college student on a budget. Nonetheless, when gel manicures were first launched, there was inconclusive evidence that the splurge-worthy treatment was correlated with cancer.

Recent health findings confirm these concerns. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, the gel manicure UV curing lamps emit ultraviolet radiation that is carcinogenic to humans.

While experts admit that the possibility of actually developing cancer from these radiation-emitting lamps is low, there is still a risk.

“[The issue] is in an area of controversy for some time because people go under those lights in fairly low intensity,” said Elizabeth Hale, vice president of the Skin Cancer Foundation and professor of dermatology at the NYU School of Medicine. “But we do know that this causes skin cancer, the most common for the back of the hands and around the nails.”

The specific skin cancer, in this case, is the squamous cell carcinoma. Deemed as the second-most common form of skin cancer, SCC is caused by chronic UV exposure.

“So that’s the type of skin cancer that is correlated with cumulative sun exposure,” Hale said. “The back of the hand is the most common area for that.”

Statistics show that SCC results in 2,500 deaths each year from 700,000 diagnosed cases. When this number is put into perspective, it makes one question whether the convenience of a nail lamp is worth its harmful health effects.

On the one hand, some students argue that gel nail lamps are luxuries that could be avoided considering the consequences resulting from its use. Rather, they support the multitude of healthier choices for a UV-free manicure experience.

“If I had known that these nail lamps contributed to skin cancer, I would’ve stopped utilizing them,” said Steinhardt freshman Lumielle Choi. “Nail salons provide various forms of entertainment to keep me distracted [so I have] the time I need to completely dry my nails without the aid of a heated lamp.”

Other students emphasize the fact that the risk of skin cancer is fairly low.

“I already knew that there was going to be some risk because the lamps use UV light, which is the same as tanning beds,” said Steinhardt freshman Jenny Pak. “I don’t think I’d stop using it because I only expose part of my hands to the light. I don’t think it’s that big of a deal.”

Regardless of one’s stance on the newfound discoveries, there are still ways to approach the use of gel curing lamps in a safer way.

To maximize safety measures, Hale recommend that manicure enthusiasts apply sunscreen with SPF before using the lamp.

Marina Zheng is a staff writer. Email her at bstyle@nyunews.com.

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