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New study claims UV nail lamps don't cause cancer

file of a nail salon in San Francisco
file of a nail salon in San Francisco
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The sale and use of popular gel nails hit a bump in the road last spring after Dr. Chris Adigun of the NYU School of Medicine rang the warning bell. His study in Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology claimed the UV lights used to harden the polish could cause damage similar to that of tanning beds.

A new study by scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Alpert School of Medicine at Brown University refutes those claims and says that UV (ultraviolet) lamps used for hardening nail polish are safe and do not increase cancer risk. The study, "Photobiological Safety Evaluation of UV Nail Lamps," was published in the Spring 2013 issue of Photochemistry and Photobiology and co-authored by Drs. John C. Dowdy and Robert Sayre, the co-inventor of the SPF rating system for sunscreens. The data shows that UV exposure is so low that a person could put her hands under a nail lamp for 25 minutes a day without exceeding the accepted safe limits for daily use.

"With this latest article adding to available extensive research, consumers should not be concerned about developing cancer from using UV nail lamps. Multiple prominent sources have dispelled the exaggerated claims that these lamps are harmful. In reality, the UV exposure created by nail lamps is very minimal," said Doug Schoon, NMC Safety co-chair.

The study also showed the risk of developing non-melanoma skin cancer was 11-46 times lower than the risks of being exposed to natural sunlight. There are still some considerations for people taking medication requiring them to avoid natural sunlight and making sure bulbs are correctly maintained.