Working Healthy

Study Finds No Increased Cancer Risk for Nail Techs

Scientists at the Cancer Prevention Institute of California (CPIC) recently released findings from the largest epidemiologic study of licensed California cosmetologists and nail techs. Despite the workers’ ongoing exposure to chemicals in the workplace, the findings did not show an excess of cancer from 1988 to 2005.  However, CPIC researchers determined that future studies must include extended follow-up of worker health status, as they discovered that many in the workforce are fairly young and have not yet entered into age groups at higher risk for cancers or have had fewer years in the field thus far.

The results of this study, which is the first to examine cancer incidence in manicurists, were published in the August issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology. The research was prompted by worker-reported health problems — such as skin and eye irritation, breathing difficulties, and headaches — that CPIC scientists observed in a pilot study of the workforce.  CPIC scientists looked at three-and-a-half decades of licensure and nearly two decades of cancer data by using registration files of licensees from the California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology and cancer case data from the California Cancer Registry. They identified 9,044 cancer cases among the 325,228 licensed female workers in the state.

“Because of the generally young ages of women in this workforce, and changes in industry practices over time, it may be too soon to evaluate the potential for cancer risks, but remaining concerns about chemical exposures suggest that follow-up assessments will be important in future years,” says CPIC research scientist Thu Quach, Ph.D., who led the study.

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