Nail UV lamps and skin cancer

This was an interesting article in the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday which your patients may ask you about tomorrow:


Fingers face cancer risk under nail lamps

RACHEL BROWNE March 25, 2012

UV lamps commonly used in nail salons are akin to ”mini tanning beds” and may pose a skin cancer risk, says one of Australia’s leading melanoma researchers.

Graham Mann, professor in medicine at the University of Sydney and a researcher at the Westmead Millennium Institute and Melanoma Institute Australia, said the lamps had the same type of long-wave ultraviolet radiation which promoted tanning.

He described the UV lamps as ”mini tanning beds”. Tanning beds were recently banned by the NSW government.

Professor Mann, the lead author of a major study last year into melanoma and tanning beds, said more research into the nail lamps was required to assess the risk.

”I suspect it is a concern,” he said. ”It’s hard to know exactly how much extra risk it would produce but I am sure it produces some. There’s not been much research done to link up the use of these nail ovens with skin cancer, although it’s definitely something worth exploring.”

The ban on tanning beds will come into effect in 2014, after public health concerns about their link to skin cancer.

A 2009 study from the University of Texas Medical School, published in the Archives of Dermatology, raised questions about UV exposure from nail lamps, used to ”cure” gel and shellac nails.

The study was based on the experiences of two women, both regular long-term users of UV nail lamps, who had developed skin cancers on their fingers. But it noted the radiation emitted from UV nail lamps was much less than from a tanning bed.

UV nail lamps use either a nine-watt globe or a 36-watt globe, used on about 2 per cent of the skin surface of area. Commercial tanning beds can produce up to 1200 watts of power, used on 100 per cent of body surface area.

An Australian distributor of UV nail lamps, Eve Pawlowski, manager of Capital Salon Supplies, said radiation exposure from the lamps was minimal.

”You only put your nails under them for two minutes, maximum,” she said. ”Most clients would probably only have their nails done every four weeks or so, so they don’t get much exposure at all.”

She said UV nail lamps were being phased out in favour of more effective LED nail lamps, which could dry nails faster.

A spokeswoman for Cancer Council NSW, Gina Murphy, said more research needed to be done into the UV lamps before making any recommendations.

  1. #1 by Dr Julie Argent on March 26, 2012 - 9:36 am

    Ian, I find your site and interesting articles extremely pertinent to my full time skin cancer practice. Invaluable in fact. Saves me sifting multiple resources for same. Thank you.
    Many gratitudes, Julie

  2. #3 by Tony Dicker on March 26, 2012 - 12:50 pm

    I’ve been asked this question 3 times by patients in the past 2 weeks.
    My best guess answer was the same as the manufacturer (no, I don’t own any shares)

    The relative dose is insignificant. that’s my best guess answer anyway.

    Isn’t the ‘curing’ light used by dentists to set acrylic fillings the same process?

  3. #4 by Hein Vandenbergh on March 26, 2012 - 9:58 pm

    Post hoc non semper propter hoc.

    How much sun exposure had those 2 ladies accumulated over their lifetime, prior to the very recent intro of this cosmetic trompe l’oeuil?

    How many pts have been so treated?

    Must say, in Bega we tend to see ‘nails in the raw’, with the suncancers on the farmers – and plenty of ’em.

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