The Truth About UV Lamps

If you’ve listened to the news or talked with friends, you probably have been told of the dangers of using a UV light to cure gel polish at the salon. CBS, Fox, NPR and others are pushing the story of ‘increased chance of cancer’ from using a UV light lamp at the salon. So is it true? Is there increased risk? What should we do?

First, I think we should define ‘increased risk’. Am I at increased risk of lung cancer if I live next door to a smoker who smokes outside of his house? Yes, because some of the smoke will waft your way on occasion, increasing your risk. Should you move, or call the cops? No, even though the smell may be an annoyance to you, the increase in risk is so infinitesimally small that it’s not really an issue.

Does the same rule apply to UV light for a couple of minutes every two weeks? There was a study that revealed how much of the UVA rays that are being absorbed into your skin to put it into perspective. A study of UVA light emitted by the type of lamps used in salons found that 13,000 UV light sessions lasting 10 minutes each would be equal to the UV exposure of one typical phototherapy session. What is phototherapy? It’s a treatment doctors use to treat psoriasis and other skin conditions. If a doctor is willing to put a patient through a phototherapy session because of its ‘low’ cancer risk, then that fact simply underscores the extremely tiny increased cancer risk from UV lights at the salon.

A doctor’s interpretation of the study: widely used UV nail lamps are highly unlikely to cause skin cancer, even if used weekly for 250 years! If you don’t plan on living for 250 years, then you probably don’t need to worry about a few minutes a month under the UV light.


Footnotes: The Markova study appears in an advance online publication by the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.