AUSTIN (KXAN) — Researchers at the University of California San Diego say nail polish dryers that use ultraviolet (UV) may cause cancer of the hand and, similar to tanning beds, may increase the risk of early-onset skin cancer. 

More research needs to be done before scientists can say certainly that these devices are linked to cancer, but Ascension Seton dermatologist, Dr. Elizabeth Yim, cautioned users from using UV nail polish dryers too frequently. 

UV light is a type of electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength ranging between ten nm and 400 nm. Researchers consistently find a causal relationship between UV-emitting tanning beds and skin cancer, but up until this point, no researchers have studied the relationship between UV nail polish dryers and carcinogenic effects. 

These devices are frequently found in nail salons and have increased in popularity in the last ten years, according to the study researchers. UV-nail devices are used to harden or dry a popular nail polish formula known as gels. 

Yim, who specializes in nail disorders, said the UV rays emitted from some nail polish dryers is less harsh than that of a tanning bed. Though there is less concern in using UV nail dryer, “there’s definitely a risk there,” she said. 

“If you’re going (to the nail salon) like one to two times a year (it’s) probably not something to be too concerned about. But if you’re going to go every single day, that’s a different scenario,” Yim said. 

Yim said she has seen anecdotal reports of younger people with skin cancer on their fingers who have a history of going to nail salons bi-weekly and otherwise should not be seeing cancer at such a young age.  

 “Maybe there’s some suggestion, but we can’t say specifically, ‘hey, going to the nail salon and using those lamps directly caused your skin cancer,” she said “But it definitely can contribute, or there could be some risk involved,” she said. 

The UCSD researchers examined the effects of the UV rays in some nail dryers on three different mammalian cells – mouse embryonic fibroblasts, human foreskin fibroblasts and adult human epidermal keratinocytes. The cells were exposed to UV rays one, two or three times with varying durations of radiation exposure. 

The researchers found that UV exposure to these cells led to cell death. The more UV light irradiated the higher the cell death count. 

“We know cumulative UV exposure can also lead to skin cancer. So that’s what I think the study is suggesting – that we should be cautious with the use of these,” Yim said. 

Since this was a lab-based study, there are some limitations on how the results can be applied to humans. One large limitation that both the researchers behind the project and Dr. Yim pointed out is the type of cells used in the study. 

“One thing that these cells lacked is all the layers of the skin,” Yim said. “I believe that these cells lacked the very top layer, which is the layer that the UV oftentimes will have to penetrate before getting to your stem cell line,” Yim said.