Most people don’t worry about the health of their skin when they’re driving around in a car – but maybe they should. A new study published in the American Academy of Dermatology shows that most cancer of the skin occurs on the left side of the face. Why the left side? That’s the side that gets the most sun exposure while driving.
Driving around with the window open in your car seems pretty harmless, but it can take a toll on your skin over the years and even increase the risk of cancers of the face and premature aging. Americans spend a great deal of time in their cars – and most are not wearing sunscreen when they pull out of their driveway.
The researchers in this study went so far as to recommend that drivers not only wear sunscreen, but protective clothing as well, to reduce the risk of exposure to the sun. They emphasize that these precautions taken on a routine basis could reduce the odds of ending up in a surgeon’s office to remove a superficial cancer of the skin – or even worse – a malignant melanoma.
There are two kinds of ultraviolet rays that damage the skin – UVA and UVB. UVB rays are the ones most likely to cause a blistering sunburn, but UVA rays penetrate even deeper into the skin and cause cumulative damage that’s not readily visible on the surface. Both UVA and UVB rays can cause cancer of the skin and premature aging.
A car that has clear, untinted windows blocks most of the UVB rays that cause sunburn, but allows up to seventy-five percent of the UVA rays in. This means you’re getting invisible skin damage even when you drive around with the windows rolled up – which is a good reason to wear a sunscreen whether you’re the driver or a passenger.
How can you reduce the level of sun exposure while driving? Getting car windows laminated or replacing regular windows with ones that are coated with UV blockers is the most effective solution, but this can be costly. The other option is to wear a good quality sunscreen with an SPF of 30 that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Wear long sleeves whenever possible and keep the windows rolled up.
Remember, exposure to ultraviolet light is cumulative and the skin damage adds up. Ten minutes of sunlight to get vitamin D is essential for good health unless you take a supplement, but more than that could lead to cancer of the skin and premature aging. Why not save yourself a trip to the dermatologist’s office?