Nail Bed Cancer
Last updated: April 2023
Recently, I went to a local salon to get a manicure. Yes, I said a manicure. I got a manicure because of the professional requirements to have "nice" hands for film, television and web-based acting auditions. Also, I don't mind having nice cuticles. This does not mean that I love the experience, but that it helps me personally and professionally.
There are many strange-looking machines in salons and one that caught my attention was this lamp that seemed to be used to "cure" gel-based nail polish. It looked like a cross between a printer and a Rumba (robotic vacuum cleaner). I noticed these ladies putting their hands in them and this tremendous bolt of light coming out of the machine. This was not a long process, but it got me to thinking. Is this dangerous?
Here is what I found. These lamps may be dangerous and there are in fact dermatologists that have gone on record who do not recommend their usage. One doctor from Charleston, South Carolina, Dr. Marguerite St. Germain says in a recent article that this type of nail treatment increases the risk of melanoma.1 She states the danger comes from the light bulbs, which emits UVA rays as it cures the gel.1
What to look for?
Dr. St. Germain notes that the UVA rays are four times stronger than natural sunlight and can cause cancer.1 She warns readers to look for small infections or pimples near the nails that do not seem to go away or streaks of brown the nail where melanoma is growing down the nail matrix.1 Exposure to UVA rays is cumulative and long-term behaviors can result in significant damage.
What are the recommendations for those using these lamps to cure gel nails? Lather your hands in sunscreen thirty minutes before treatment or better yet, cover the tops of your hands with a towel altogether. Dr. St. Germain also recommends gloves without nail tips, although this may not be feasible and prohibitive.1
There is some good news on the horizon. The article states that many salons are phasing out the use of UV lights and are using LED lights instead. Evidently, UV lamps are somewhat dated and the newer technology is safer. It appears that more research is needed, but as the saying goes. "A word to the wise is sufficient." What's the bigger lesson here?
Be on the lookout
So, this leads me to my point. Be vigilant and aware of your surroundings. Dangers may be lurking out there in places that you never expected. I don't mean that one has to stop enjoying life. I don't mean that you have to live in constant dread. What I do mean is that it is important to have your eyes open and your antennas up because you are always your best advocate and protecting yourself is first and foremost your responsibility.
It's important to ask questions. There is nothing wrong with wanting to know if that gel-curing machine has an LED or UV lamp. Just like you'd want to know the SPF of your sunscreen or if your beach vacation property has sun shade. Oh, and don't be shy about alerting others either. We are all in this together.
Do you sunscreen in the fall?