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A 24-year-old Billings woman said she is exposed to more health risks from toxins in her household cleaning supplies, and the coal trains running through Billings, than her monthly gel manicures. And, she will continue the monthly ritual of painting her fingernails.

“My nail polish is the last thing I’m worried about,” said Kayla Corcoran as she got a fresh coat of pastel polish.

Gel manicures took center stage earlier this month when one expert at a medical conference warned that manicures may lead to many nail problems — or even skin cancer — from the ultraviolet lamps used to dry the polish.

“In general, any manicure left in place for an extended period of time is not a good idea because you are not seeing what is going on underneath the nail polish,” Dr. Chris Adigun, assistant professor dermatology at The Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology at NYU School of Medicine said in a news release from the American Academy of Dermatology. “As is the case with most things, moderation is the key when it comes to gel manicures.”

Adigun presented her report March 1 at the American Academy of Dermatology’s 71st annual meeting in Miami Beach, Fla.

Gel nail polish can last two weeks — or more — longer than traditional acrylic nail polish, according to the academy. After the polish is applied, ultraviolet  lamps are used to seal the polish to the nail, a process known as “curing.” When the polish is ready to come off, the nails are soaked in acetone for at least 10 or 15 minutes because the sealed polish is difficult to remove.

The procedure can leave the nails thinner, causing brittleness, peeling, and cracking. It is not clear whether the brittleness is caused by the chemicals in the gel nail polish or the acetone required to remove the polish.

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And people who get gel manicures regularly are subjected to UV light from heat lamps that can cause skin damage. UV lamps used for tanning beds have been linked to increased risk for deadly melanoma skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma. But Adigun said the overall risk remained low with gel manicures.

Any time you’re repeatedly exposed to UV light, the risk for skin cancer increases, some dermatologists say.

Corcoran, who frequents tanning beds to help treat her psoriasis, said she is not concerned about the effects of UV light on her overall body and certainly is not going to worry about it on her hands. Her hands are exposed to UV light a maximum of five to six minutes once a month.

“You get more exposure just walking outside in the sun,” said Anita Kantorowicz, a cosmetologist at Grande F-Nail-E, who gives about 10 gel manicures per week. She first started giving gel manicures in 2010 and they have grown in popularity.

Corcoran said her gel polish manicures, which she has been getting since September 2011, last at least four weeks, sometimes five. She likes the longevity as well as the price. At $30 per manicure, it’s less expensive than the acrylic nails she used to get, costing $30 to $40 every two weeks.

Sara Hanley, a nail technician at Grande F-Nail-E, said she has no concerns about the UV nail lamps and points to two magazines in the salon. Both March periodicals cite a study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology that says UV nail lamps do not appear to significantly increase the lifetime risk of nonmelanoma skin cancer.

“It will be business as usual,” Kantorowicz said.

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