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In one of my older articles about the sun gloves, readers Denise and Miriam talked about how they protect their arms while driving. It actually makes sense but it's something I never really thought about since I don’t have to worry about the sun on my underground commute to work via subway.
Both Denise and Miriam’s concerns, however, have been justified in a study by researchers from the University of Washington. The study suggests that individuals living in the United States are more likely to develop skin cancer on the left side of their body. This is due to the harmful UV rays that are shinning down on drivers as they drive; their left sides are generally more exposed to the sun.
Researchers found that when skin cancer occurred on one side of the body, 52% of melanoma cases and 53% of merkel cell carcinomas were on the left side. On the upper arms, 55% of merkel cell cases developed on the left side. The National Cancer Institute says that in 2010 more than 68,000 people were diagnosed with melanoma, and 8,700 people died from the disease.
This sun exposure issue isn’t just some coincidence; the same can be said for those living overseas that drive on the right side. A study from 1986 showed that drivers in Australia were more likely to have precancerous growths on their right side as opposed to their left.
Those at most risk are individuals with exposed arms/hands driving with the windows down. Rolling the window up is your easiest, however not the strongest, form of protection. You can expect the glass to help block out some UV rays but UVA rays will still be able to penetrate. Your windshield has partial protection against UVA rays but not much. If you plan on keeping your windows down, your best choice would be to wear protective clothing and use sunscreen.
If you want to avoid the constant sunscreen hassle and want complete coverage, you might want to look into tinting your windows. Some body shops can tint your windows with transparent UV-filtering film that can filter out 99% of both UVA and UVA rays. It’s just something to consider, especially for those that drive a lot. The only downside is that sun protection is only effective with the windows up, so get used to your car’s air conditioner.
The scary part is that we wear sunscreen outdoors but it kind of slips our minds when it comes down to something as simple as hopping in a car. Hopefully this study will provide some helpful insight to those who aren’t yet aware about the dangers of driving without sun protection.