The Claim: Salons’ UV Nail Lights Can Cause Skin Cancer

Posted on Aug 20, 2010 in Cancer

by Anahad O’Connor

With summer in full swing, Americans are constantly reminded to slather on the sunscreen and avoid tanning beds.

But an often overlooked source of ultraviolet radiation can be found in many nail salons, and some doctors warn that it could be hazardous. UV nail lamps are found in almost all nail salons and sold widely for use at home.

In a sense, they are like miniature tanning beds, emitting similar amounts of UV radiation per meter squared, studies show. And like tanning beds, they emit predominantly UVA rays, which penetrate the skin most deeply. There are no large studies of their effects, but one study last year in the Archives of Dermatology described two cases of healthy middle-aged women without family histories of skin cancer who developed non-melanoma skin cancers on their hands. The report linked the cancers to UV nail lights. One, the study found, “had a 15-year history of twice-monthly UV nail light exposure to dry her nail polish.” The other used nail lights about eight times in a year before her diagnosis.

Using the nail lights every week or two can add up to significant UV exposure, said Dr. Roshini Raj, an assistant professor of medicine at New York University’s medical school who addresses the issue in her new book, “What the Yuck?! The Freaky and Fabulous Truth About Your Body.” Because of the risk, Dr. Raj recommends using them only sparingly.

“Or better yet, let your nails dry on their own,” she writes. “It may take a bit longer, but it’s worth the effort to save your skin.”


There is some evidence that UV nail lights could be a risk factor for skin cancer.