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Can nail gel polish cause cancer?

On January 25, 2023, an article titled “Can nail gel polish cause cancer?” was published in the Israeli newspaper “Haaretz”. The author, Lev Gideon, claimed about the harmful effect of ultraviolet lamps used in the popular gel nail polish.

The article discusses the possibility of skin cancer with frequent repetition of the manicure procedure. As proof of his position, the author cites some foreign studies confirming the validity of his statement.

Our team became interested in this issue. Studying materials related to the effects of ultraviolet radiation on human skin during the procedure of applying and fixing gel nail polish, we decided to turn to the analysis of this problem in foreign media. We also consulted with a leading specialist in physiology and anatomy, Doctor of Biological Sciences Anna Vyacheslavovna Deryugina, to comment on the content of this article

The effect of ultraviolet radiation on human skin.

In this article, the author says that prolonged exposure to ultraviolet radiation leads to melanomas. As our expert said, it is true that prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays is really destructive for the human body. Ultraviolet radiation is a physical mutagen and a major risk factor for skin cancer. But even in small doses, ultraviolet X-rays are useful for human health, since they play a major role in the synthesis of vitamin D.

Regional specificity of exposure to ultraviolet radiation.

Anna Derugina, our respected expert, claims that ultraviolet X-rays affect the health of people living in the northern regions.

Skin color becomes lighter as a person moves north, because dark skin, as a result of evolution to protect against strong southern ultraviolet radiation, leads to a decrease in vitamin D synthesis as a person moves north. As a result, people of the European phenotype have become more sensitive to strong ultraviolet rays. Because of this, Northerners who have moved to a tropical country have a higher risk of getting skin cancer, – she explained.

Comparison of the strength of ultraviolet radiation of lamps used for drying gel polish with other sources of ultraviolet radiation

Nail lamps emit mainly type A ultraviolet radiation, the least dangerous for humans. Exposure to ultraviolet radiation in large quantities, especially in summer, has a gradual degenerative effect on the skin. If we take into account the equal radiation from the sun and from these lamps, then the procedure for applying and fixing gel polish can be compared to walking in sunny weather; in addition, the zone of exposure to the skin is limited by hands, while when walking, the zone of exposure to ultraviolet increases. radiation also affects other areas of the skin, – the expert notes.

Let’s consider the conducted research related to the effect of ultraviolet light emitted by drying lamps on human skin cells.

Study of the effect of ultraviolet rays on skin cells

The first source we rely on is a study by the scientists from the University of California at San Diego and the University of Pittsburgh, published on January 17, 2023 in the popular science journal Nature Communications.

During the study, scientists exposed human and mice cells to radiation from a popular nail lamp, which is used in many nail salons in the United States. According to the data obtained, about 30% of the cells died after twenty minutes of exposure to the lamp; some were only damaged. However, Dr. Chris Adigun, a dermatologist from Chapel Hill, in an interview with the New York Times on February 7, 2023, expressed doubt about the appropriateness of using the results obtained. He stated: “The cells in the laboratory are more vulnerable than the cells of the human hand, which has a thick layer of outer skin composed of dead cells that protects us from the negative effects of the environment.”

Moreover, the authors of the study themselves, published in Nature Communications, state that it is impossible to give an accurate assessment of the harm of ultraviolet lamps. Catherine Connor quotes them in her article dated January 17, 2023: “Nevertheless, future large-scale epidemiological studies are needed to accurately quantify the risk of developing hand skin cancer in people who regularly use UV nail dryers. It will probably take at least ten years to complete such a study and then inform the general public.”

In addition, according to the study materials, the cells were continuously exposed to ultraviolet radiation for 20 minutes. The human hand during the manicure procedure is not under the influence of an ultraviolet lamp continuously. This fact demonstrates the difference between a test conducted in a laboratory and a normal situation in real life.

To determine the level of the problem of skin cancer development, we turned to scientific resources that are related to the study of oncological problems.

Melanoma: statistics in the USA

According to the article about Cancer.net as of March 2023, the average age of diagnosis of “melanoma” is 65 years. At the same time, since the beginning of the 2000s, the statistics of the formation of malignant skin tumors in people under the age of 50 have stabilized in women and decreased by about 1% annually in men. However, as for people aged 50 years and older, their diagnosis of “melanoma” increased by an average of 1% in women and remained at the same level in men.

At the same time, according to data published on the website of the Association of the American Academy of Dermatology on April 22, 2022, over the past decade, the incidence of melanoma has begun to decline in adolescents and adults aged 30 years and younger. However, the risk of developing skin cancer has increased among older age groups.

To establish a link between the development of melanoma and ultraviolet radiation, we studied the following data:

Statistics of cases of skin cancer caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation lamps.

As a reference, we turned to an article published on July 13, 2020 in the National Library of Medicine. It examined statistical data on the effect of ultraviolet radiation on the incidence of skin cancer on the hands and nails of young people. The study concluded that there is no direct link between ultraviolet radiation and melanoma. The authors stated: “There were no cases when patients under the age of 40 with a history of chronic gel manicure were diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancer or melanoma on the back of the palms or nail matrices. SEER found virtually no changes in the incidence of melanoma among patients under the age of 65.”

Cases linking nail care procedures with the development of skin cancer.

In an article published on January 24, 2023 in NBC News, Aria Bendix mentions two women in the United States diagnosed with melanoma. According to the author, they have been doing manicures for many years. However, the article goes on to say that the researchers did not find a link between a gel-coated manicure and the development of skin cancer.

Control over cosmetic procedures.

Cosmetic equipment must undergo preliminary biomedical research to prevent such dangerous consequences. However, this is not regulated at the legislative level, since cosmetic procedures should not take place under the supervision of a doctor. Nevertheless, the equipment is being tested and its effect on living organisms is being studied. The permissible intensity of ultraviolet radiation for household products was also established, – said our respected expert Anna Deryugina.


After analyzing various media sources and receiving expert comments, we can conclude that the probability of developing melanoma due to ultraviolet radiation from nail lamps is insignificant. New research has received a lot of feedback and comments from experts. In their articles, many authors point out the shortcomings of the experiments carried out, but at the same time call for a responsible approach to nail procedures. Statistics on the development of melanoma do not show significant growth. Foreign media note that not a single case of skin cancer has been identified, which could be attributed to the ultraviolet radiation of lamps used for curing gel polish.

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