NEW YORK, N.Y. — A recent study from the St. Louis University Medical School revealed that nearly 53 percent of skin cancers in the US occur on the left, or drivers’ side of the body. Researchers believe the increase in left-sided skin cancers may be from exposure to UV (ultraviolet) radiation while driving. With approximately 208 million licensed drivers in the US, people need to take precautions wherever they can.
“People may be surprised to learn that car windows don’t provide complete sun protection,” said Perry Robins, MD, president of The Skin Cancer Foundation. “Ultraviolet (UV) radiation reaches us in the form of shortwave UVB and long-wave UVA rays, but glass blocks only UVB effectively.”
Road trips make great summer vacations, and they can be enjoyed safely as long as people take precautions. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends the following ways to protect your skin, particularly when spending extended time in the car.
Treat Your Vehicle to Window Film
The sun’s ultraviolet radiation is associated with most cases of skin cancer, which will affect one in five Americans over a lifetime. Although car windshields are partially treated to filter out UVA, the side windows let in about 63 percent of the sun’s UVA radiation; rear windows are also unprotected, leaving back seat passengers exposed. There is, however, a solution. Transparent window film screens out almost 100 percent of UVB and UVA without reducing visibility, and is available in all 50 states. If you have window film installed, remember that it protects you only when the windows are closed. When shopping for window film, be sure to check if the product has The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Seal of Recommendation.
Keep Sunscreen in the Car
For those without window film, sunscreen should be on hand for quick reapplication during long drives. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends reapplying every two hours. Look for one with an SPF of 15+ and some combination of the following UVA-blocking ingredients: avobenzone, ecamsule, oxybenzone, titanium dioxide, and zinc oxide.
Wear Protective Sunglasses
UV-blocking sunglasses are one of the strongest defenses against eye and eyelid damage. For proper protection, sunglasses should have the ability to absorb and block 99 to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB light. Wraparound styles with a comfortable, close fit and UV-protective side shields are ideal. Polarized lenses to eliminate glare are especially good when driving. Also look to see if the glasses meet ANSI and/or ISO standards for traffic signal recognition, which means that the lenses permit good color recognition, especially for tasks such as discriminating red from green traffic signals.
Skip the Sunroof, Skip the Convertible
Drivers’ heads and necks receive the most UV exposure, so it’s no surprise that the St. Louis University research team found over 82 percent of skin cancers on the patients’ heads or necks. A solid, closed roof is your best bet. If you have a sunroof or a convertible top, wear a hat, preferably a wide-brimmed one (3” or greater all around). At the very least, be sure to apply sunscreen to exposed areas of the face, neck and scalp.
Keep a hat in the car, along with your sunscreen and UV-blocking sunglasses and you’ll have a sun protection travel kit to see you safely to your destination. For more information, visit www.SkinCancer.org.
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