AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: skincancer

Is the Gel Manicure worth the Damage to Your DNA?

Nail salons are filled with these UV lamps that create the perfect gel manicure which lasts for weeks and dries instantly. These manicures are advertised all around and consumers are sucked in, including myself. I love getting an easy gel manicure and saving myself the hassle of having chipped nails that require at least 20 minutes to dry. However, by placing our hands into these lamps, we are causing ourselves years of permanent damage to our DNA. But how does exposure to UV rays cause these intense issues? It all boils down to one thing; the DNA in our skin cells.

The two main types of skin cancer are melanoma and non-melanoma. Melanoma is less common but more dangerous than non-melanoma. While skin cancer can be hereditary, there is evidence that exposure to UV rays causes skin cancer. PubMed Central explains DNA damage caused by UV rays results in deamination, depurination, and depyrimidination. Deamination is the loss of an amino group from a compound that can convert one base to another, meaning the deamination of cytosine from UV rays would result in the production of uracil. Depurination and depyrimidination are the total removal of purine and pyrimidine bases. This removes the deoxyribose sugars in the cell which causes breakage in the DNA backbone. Exposure to these oxidative stressors can cause double DNA strand breaks which are the most dangerous as they leads to the loss of genetic material. These interferences damage the components of DNA molecules and the normal functions of the cells. The damage that UV rays cause to the DNA in skin cells lead to abnormal growth and the start of benign or malignant growths in the skin, which can ultimately lead to cancer. 

Direct and indirect DNA damage by ionizing radiation

A study done by the University of California used UV lamps that are used to cure gel manicures to study their affects on skin cells. They used three different cells types; adult human skin keratinocytes, human foreskin fibroblasts, and mouse embryonic fibroblasts. They observed that that exposure to the UV lamps for 20 minutes caused between 20-30 percent cell death, and three consecutive 20 minute exposures led to 65-70 percent cell death. Additionally, the exposure caused mitochondrial and DNA damage to the surviving cells. The mutations found in these cells are representative of those found in human skin cancer, proving that the consistent use of these lamps can lead to skin cancer. In another study, Maria Zhivagui, a postdoctoral scholar, exposed three cell types to acute and chronic exposure of UV lights. In both conditions, cell death, damage, and DNA mutations were observed. There was also an elevation of reactive oxygen species molecules which are known to cause DNA damage and mutations that are found in melanoma patients.

UV manicure lamps (15157277325)

Therefore, the study proves how damaging UV rays are to our cells. The risk of using these lamps is not worth the risks they bring to your DNA. Alternatives to UV lamps are just getting normal manicures, press on nails, or powder manicures, which do not require the exposure to UV rays.

This connects to what we have been learning in AP Biology because DNA’s structure is composed of nucleotide molecules. These nucleotides contain a phosphate group, deoxyribose sugar, and one the four nitrogenous bases; adenine, thymine, cytosine, and guanine. UV damage can lead to chemical changes in these nitrogenous bases and to the structure of the DNA. Additionally, this can cause disruptions in the reading of genetic code during protein synthesis which results in incorrect sequence of amino acids. We have learned that altering amino acid structure completely changes the function of the proteins, which is why UV rays lead to mutations such as skin cancer.

So, next time you decide to get a gel manicure will you think about the damage you are causing to your DNA? Is the risk worth it?


With Summer Around the Corner, Will You Keep An Eye Out to Protect Your Skin?

Piece of Human Skin

Tanning Salons are extremely dangerous to one’s health due to the unnatural and intense UVA and UVB rays that are aimed at the skin. These Ultra Violet rays can lead to premature aging of the skin and skin cancer. While most people know the dangers of tanning salons, many people are unaware of the dangers of natural sun tanning.

Natural sun tanning can be as bad as tanning salons. Your risk of skin cancer increases as you spend more time underneath the strong sun. “According to Arthur Sober, M.D., associate professor of dermatology at Harvard University Medical School, ‘On a cloudy day, a person feels cooler, but is still getting a good amount of UV exposure’.” (FDA, Which means that although it may be cloudy you are still coming in contact with UV rays. There is still enough sun rays penetrating the newly weakened ozone layer to have an effect on your skin!

The sun has vitamin D which is beneficial to our bodies, so about fifteen to twenty minutes of sun a day is healthy, but not more than that.

The sun emits two major wavelengths- UVA and UVB and these wavelengths increase one’s chances of skin cancer. The body tans because the body is being injured by ultra violet radiation that hits the skin. “These UV rays cause the body to produce an excess amount of melanin which acts like a natural sun screen. In order to get a tan, you must injure your skin first.” (FDA, In addition to the risk of skin cancer from sun tanning, UVB rays impair the body’s immune system, which normally defends against disease. This increases one’s chances of skin cancers and other diseases.

“UVA rays speed up the skin’s aging due to the changes in the skin’s collagen, the protein in the skin’s connective tissue.” (FDA, Many cosmetic companies make cremes enhanced with collagen for older women; they add extra collagen on their skin in hopes of reducing the amount of wrinkles they have.– These UVA rays speed up the wrinkling process of you skin, causing pre-mature aging.

Statistics about skin cancer:

“-Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. More than 3.5 million cases in two million people are diagnosed annually.

-Melanoma accounts for about three percent of skin cancer cases, but it causes more than 75% of skin cancer deaths.

-Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-29 years old and the second most common form of cancer for adolescents and young adults 15-29 years old.

-A person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has had five or more sunburns at any age.

-More than 20 Americans die each day from skin cancer, primarily melanoma. One person dies of melanoma almost every hour.”


Try to keep these statistics in mind and protect your skin from being harmed by excess sun!

Read more at:


Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

Skip to toolbar