NEW ORLEANS — If you weren't blessed with long, strong nails and turn to gel nails for help, you want to make sure it's safe.

If you're using one of those ultraviolet light machines to help them dry and set, be aware of new concerns: Could that light put you at risk for skin cancer?
Jessica is one of many women who likes getting a manicure with gels nails.

"It lasts longer, doesn't chip. They dry quicker. They are shinier and it's just a better quality nails," said Jessica, 26.

She is in the process of removing the gels, so you can see the difference from her natural nails. That's because she wants to give them a breather.

"It's too harsh on my nails. When one breaks, it like rips my whole nail off," Jessica said.

And while doctors say giving your nails a break from gel and polish is good for their health, there's a new concern. Can the ultraviolet light used to cure the gel cause skin cancer?

"Ultraviolet light, in all of its forms, can damage the skin, and so cumulative doses will add up and can cause enough damage to increase your risk of skin cancer," explained Dr. Sarah Jackson, a board-certified dermatologist in New Orleans whose practice is Audubon Dermatology. Jackson is also clinical assistant professor at LSU Health Sciences Center. 

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She says our hands are constantly getting UV exposure already from the sun, even though car windows. We know it causes wrinkles and it's a known carcinogen. And the nail lights add to the exposure.
"In general, if you can avoid ultraviolet light, that is what I would recommend, but if you choose to use it, make sure you have that sunscreen on. We recommend an SPF 30 to 50," said Jackson.

"There have been case reports of finger squamous cell carcinoma, and hand squamous cell carcinomas in women that have repetitively used UV curing devices. There was one case reported, the woman that had gone 15 years, every other week, and she had a skin cancer on her finger," said Dr. Mara Haseltine, a board-certified dermatologist in Metairie who is an associate professor at both Tulane and LSUHSC.

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Haseltine's practice is Pure Dermatology. And she found UV protective gloves on Amazon that were three pairs for only $10. She says then, you could put sunscreen with the physical blockers zinc oxide or titanium dioxide on the exposed parts of the skin right before using the light.

The American Academy of Dermatology also recommends sunscreen when you are using a UV light.

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