UV light is the primary cause of skin cancer, and gel nails are cured using small lamps that emit UV light. For this reason, many people wonder about the link between gel manicures and skin cancer—however, at the time of this writing, no such link has been proven.
Although the light emitted by nail lamps could, with repeated use, be sufficient to cause DNA damage (and therefore cancer), studies have found that the risk posed by nail lamps is roughly 11 to 46 times lower than the risk posed by direct sunlight.
Gel Nails and Skin Cancer: Understanding and Lowering Risks
Can gel nails cause cancer? Although this outcome is theoretically possible, studies say that the risk is fairly trivial. Still, since high-volume, long-term studies on gel manicures are still relatively few and far between, we recommend caution. Here’s what you can do to stay safe:
- When getting a gel manicure, use special gloves that leave only your nails exposed
- Use SPF 30+ sunscreen on your hands, and reapply as needed (especially if the nail tech washes your hands with soap before your manicure begins).
- Some medications may increase the risk of UV light exposure, so talk to your doctor to better understand your unique risk factors.
- Give your nails a break in between gel manicures, or at least once every few months.
Skin Cancer Under Nails: Know the Signs
Gel manicures and skin cancer are not conclusively linked to one another, but it’s still important to understand how to recognize skin cancer on nails. After all, early detection and treatment can improve outcomes with any cancer diagnosis.
- The most common form of skin cancer found on nails is known as acral lentiginous melanoma. It looks like a dark band that stretches from the bed of your nail outward.
- Onycholysis—where the nail is pushed away from the skin—is a common symptom of nodular melanoma.
- A skin-colored or pinkish bump near the nail may be a sign of desmoplastic melanoma.
Basal cell skin cancer and squamous cell skin cancer are both more common than melanoma—at least in general. However, melanoma is more likely to appear on nails than either of these more common varieties.
Talk to Your Healthcare Provider About Treatment
In the event that you are diagnosed with one of several common forms of skin cancer on your nail, you should ask your healthcare provider about your treatment options. Image-Guided SRT is a surgery-free treatment for forms of cancer affecting the basal and squamous skin cells, and you can call us to speak with a skin cancer information specialist today.