Perfectly painted nails are a Sisyphus task, they require constant care. Once carelessly rummaged through the change, the paint is already peeling. And what was just perfectly manicured suddenly looks unkempt. Many women therefore rely on professional gel polishes that are dried under UV light in the nail salon. These are considered to be particularly robust and promise flawlessness for weeks. A practical matter. But as so often, all that glitters is not gold. Irradiation with the UV devices is suspected of increasing the risk of skin cancer.
A study by the University of California San Diego now provides further evidence that ultraviolet light could be more harmful to cells than previously thought. How big is the danger from the nail salon?
UV radiation has it all. According to cancer aid, it is the main cause of white and black skin cancer. Around 275,000 people develop this type of cancer each year. Both natural (sun) and artificial (solarium) UV radiation can pose a risk to the body, more precisely: eyes and skin. This is where the radiation penetrates and gets into the cells, where it can cause significant damage – both short-term and long-term. The Federal Office for Radiation Protection lists the damage to the genetic material in cells of the eyes and skin as the most important change. Even low levels of UV radiation can lead to such damage, "far before sunburn".
The cells are able to repair such damage. However, it can become problematic if the cells are exposed to UV radiation often and for a long time, which may still be intense, and sunburn occurs. These factors can lead to the cells not being able to keep up with the repairs. To put it simply, they no longer manage to correct all errors - mutations remain. As a result, the risk of skin cancer increases. UV-A radiation, which penetrates deeper into the cells than UV-B radiation, is particularly dangerous.
The UV devices that are used in nail salons usually work with UV light in the spectrum from 340 to 395 nanometers. This is UV-A radiation. For comparison: the spectrum of solariums is between 280 and 400 nanometers. Sunbeds have long been criticized as being harmful to health. The Cancer Aid writes: "Studies show that repeated visits to the solarium increase the risk of developing black and white skin cancer."
The UV lamps in nail salons, on the other hand, have so far received little scientific attention. "The devices are marketed as safe, something not to worry about," says Ludmil Alexandrov. He is a professor of bioengineering and cell and molecular medicine at the University of California San Diego and led the study. To the best of his knowledge, no one has yet investigated what effects such devices have on human cells.
The German Cancer Research Center (dkfz) classifies UV-A light as fundamentally carcinogenic, "albeit depending on the duration and strength of the radiation. The shorter the exposure time, the less skin damage". In their study, the research team at the University of California assumes an irradiation time of up to ten minutes per manicure every two weeks. Can this duration cause serious damage?
This is exactly what Alexandrov's team investigated under experimental conditions. For this purpose, both human skin cells and those of mice in petri dishes were irradiated with the UV light of the nail dryer lamps. The scientists are testing two types of radiation. In variant one, they irradiated the cells twice for 20 minutes within one day. They found that a single session can kill 20 to 30 percent of the cells. In variant two, the cells were irradiated for 20 minutes each on three days in a row, which resulted in the cell death of 65 to 70 percent of the cells. .
In the course of the study, which was published in the journal "Nature", the researchers were able to observe a mutation pattern triggered by the radiation.
It is a mutation pattern that is already known. "We examined patients with skin cancer and found exactly the same mutation pattern as in the irradiated cells," says Alexandrov.
The conclusion of the scientists: "Our experimental results and previous knowledge strongly suggest that the radiation emitted by UV nail polish dryers can cause hand cancer and that UV nail polish dryers, similar to solariums, can increase the risk of early-stage skin cancer. " However, how great the cancer risk actually is and what role the frequency of radiation plays in this is not answered with certainty by this study. Further large epidemiological studies are necessary for clarification.
Anyone who does not want to do without gel nails but does not want to take any health risks can take protective measures against ultraviolet light. Among other things, sun protection with a high sun protection factor and fingerless gloves are recommended. Source: Nature, UC San Diego, Federal Office for Radiation Protection, German Cancer Research Center, Cancer Aid