Ultraviolet (UV) nail polish dryers, typically used for gel manicures, can kill cells and lead to cancer-causing mutations in cells, according to a new study.
The study, which was published Tuesday in Nature Communications, analyzed cells in two different conditions of UV exposure. Cells with acute exposure had two 20-minute sessions under the UV dryers with an hour break in between. Cells with chronic exposure had one 20-minute session under the UV dryers for three consecutive days.
Researchers found that one 20-minute session of exposure to the UV dryers resulted in 20 to 30% cell death, while three consecutive 20-minute sessions of exposure resulted in 65 to 70% cell death.
In the remaining cells, the exposure resulted in mutations that are typically seen in skin cancer.
"We saw multiple things: first, we saw that DNA gets damaged," Ludmil Alexandrov, a bioengineering professor at UC San Diego and study author, said in a statement. "We also saw that some of the DNA damage does not get repaired over time, and it does lead to mutations after every exposure with a UV-nail polish dryer. Lastly, we saw that exposure may cause mitochondrial dysfunction, which may also result in additional mutations. We looked at patients with skin cancers, and we see the exact same patterns of mutations in these patients that were seen in the irradiated cells."
Researchers from the University of California San Diego noted that many studies have been done warning of exposure to UV lights in tanning beds, which have proven to be carcinogenic. However, the possible harmful effects of nail polish dryers have not been studied, despite the devices using a different spectrum of UV light.
"If you look at the way these devices are presented, they are marketed as safe, with nothing to be concerned about," Alexandrov explained. "But to the best of our knowledge, no one has actually studied these devices and how they affect human cells at the molecular and cellular levels until now."
Study authors note that many cases of rare cancers developing in fingers were from people who frequently get gel manicures using UV-nail polish dryers, like pageant contestants and estheticians.
Researchers believe more data, that spans numerous years, is needed in order to "accurately quantify the risk for skin cancer of the hand in people regularly using UV-nail polish dryers."