LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Gel manicures have been popular for years thanks to the vibrant colors that don’t chip and last for weeks. But after a beauty queen’s bout with melanoma, there are renewed concerns those colorful fingertips could come with cancer.
Karolina Jasko, a 21-year-old Midwest beauty queen was having her gel nails removed when she noticed a thin black line on her thumb. A week later, it became swollen and her doctor gave her the bad news – it was nail melanoma. Jasko had to have her nail removed and now has a permanent scar.
Salon gel manicures may be popular but getting them and removing them can be a process. Gel polish is akin to liquid acrylics and is cured under a UV lamp after application. Experts say the UV dose under a gel manicure lamp is brief, but intense, and not recommended for people highly sensitive to UV light.
Removal requires soaking nails in acetone wrapped in foil, which can leave nails dried out and brittle.
“We know that acral lentiginous melanoma is the type of melanoma this was. It’s fairly uncommon – but it is seen and we look for it when somebody has a streak on their nail,” But Studio City dermatologist Dr. Gene Rubenstein said.
Jasko has said cancer runs in her family – her mother had it twice and survived — but her doctor believes the UV light used to dry the gel nail polish likely caused the cancer.
But, based on a study he’s read about the subject, Dr. Rubenstein says he’s not sure the UV lamps are strong enough to cause cancer.
“It showed, in general, we can say that ultraviolet light is so low, the exposure is so low, in general it’s safe with gel nails. It takes, multiple, multiple, multiple exposures in order to have any danger,” Dr. Rubenstein said.
The exposure from the salon UV lamps is not the same as one could get from, for example, a tanning bed, he said.
“The question is, was it a family history thing that she had, or was it due to the fact that she has gel nails? There’s no way to know,” Dr. Rubenstein said.
Rubenstein says anyone receiving a gel manicure should wear sunscreen or gloves with the tips cut off, or ask for an LED lamp instead of a UV lamp, to protect their hands.