Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Cancer Health Center

Font Size

UV Nail Lamps Safe, Study Suggests

WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Dec. 6, 2012 -- Widely used UV nail lamps are highly unlikely to cause skin cancer, even if used weekly for 250 years, a new study suggests.

The finding contradicts the feeling of many dermatologists that the devices are as harmful as tanning beds. That feeling is largely based on a 2009 report of skin cancer on the hands of two women with no other obvious skin-cancer risks.

But the new study actually measured radiation from typical nail lamps. The measurements then were used to calculate nail lamps' "carcinogenic effectiveness" by the same method used to establish the safety of medical devices.

"Nail lamps are safe for over 250 years of weekly manicures, and even then there would be a low risk of skin cancer," says study researcher Alina Markova, MD, of Massachusetts General Hospital. "Not 'no risk,' but 'low risk.'"

Emory University dermatologist Jamie MacKelfresh, MD, praises the Markova study for its scientific approach.

"This makes me rethink the issue of nail lamp safety," MacKelfresh says. "I'm not ready to say these devices are safe -- we dermatologists want people to avoid UV radiation as much as possible -- but this seems to be low risk, especially if used infrequently."

Nail Lamps' UV Radiation

The study looked at three models of UV nail lamps similar to about 90% of the hundreds of such products available for salon and home use:

  • Device A, with four 9-watt UV fluorescent bulbs.
  • Device B, with one 9-watt UV fluorescent bulb.
  • Device C, with six 1-watt LED lights.

Markova and colleague Martin A. Weinstock, MD, professor of dermatology at Brown University, measured the radiation from a 10-minute session under the lamps, which is more than people typically get in a nail salon.

They compared the cancer-causing potential of each device to a course of treatment with the FDA-approved UV phototherapy devices commonly used by dermatologists. These treatments carry a low cancer risk.

"Over 13,000 Device A or B and more than 40,000 Device C sessions lasting for 10 minutes would be required to be received at the nail salon to equal the UV dose received during one [phototherapy] course," Markova and Weinstock calculate.

Today on WebMD

Colorectal cancer cells
New! I AM Not Cancer Facebook Group
Lung cancer xray
See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
sauteed cherry tomatoes
Fight cancer one plate at a time.
Ovarian cancer illustration
Real Cancer Perspectives
Jennifer Goodman Linn self-portrait
what is your cancer risk
colorectal cancer treatment advances
breast cancer overview slideshow
prostate cancer overview
lung cancer overview slideshow
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
Actor Michael Douglas