Manicure typically involves drying the newly painted nails in an ultraviolet lamp, a process that many nail salons find necessary as this would make the lacquer dry faster and prevent unsightly damages to intricate nail designs.

Concerns, however, were raised against the use of these lamps because they emit ultraviolet-A (UV-A) rays, the same UV rays emitted by tanning beds and the sun, which is linked with skin cancer and remains the most prevalent form of cancer in the United States affecting more than 61,000 men and women.

Although studies have founds risks of exposure to UV radiation, there was no sampling of UV lights used in nail salons, so a group of researchers investigated if exposure to UV nail salon lamps raises risks of skin cancer.

The study published in the JAMA Dermatology April 30, Lyndsay Shipp of Georgia Regents University and colleagues tested 17 nail polish dryers from 16 different salons. The lamps tested in the study used different bulbs and emitted varying irradiance and wattage.

Shipp's team found that it would require 11 average exposures to the UV-A radiation from nail salon lamps to raise a person's risks for cancer. Based on calculations of the amount of UV-A radiation exposure that could damage the DNA, the researchers said that brief exposure to the UV lamps after getting a manicure raises small risks for cancer and that it would take multiple exposures to cause potential damage to the DNA.

The researchers estimated that exposure of the hands to UV lamps in nail salons average about eight minutes per manicure and the total exposure time that would raise risks for damage would be between eight to 208 minutes depending on the lamp used. The UV-A radiation emitted by the different UV lamps differ but lamps with higher wattage typically generate higher levels of UV-A rays. The positioning of the device also affects the levels of exposure to the radiation.

Despite the minimal risks posed by UV lamps, the research team still acknowledged the benefits of protecting the hands from the potentially harmful effects of exposure to UV rays.

"Our data suggest that, even with numerous exposures, the risk for carcinogensis, remains small," the researchers wrote. "That said, we concur with previous authors in recommending use of physical blocking sunscreens or UV-A protective gloves to limit the risk of carcinogenesis and photoaging."

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