Do you wear sunscreen while driving? Most people don’t. They think their windshields will keep UV rays out and, if not, well, they’re only driving a short distance. It won’t take long. But even the shortest distance becomes too long when your skin is unprotected.
Left side of the face is more prone to skin cancer
A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology has confirmed “an increase in photodamage and precancers on the left side of the face”. The results showed that, in the US, 52.6% of skin cancers occurred on the left side, while 47.4% on the right side. This difference may not seem considerable to some, but it’s important to note that those numbers take into consideration all types of skin cancer. When we only consider malignant melanoma, the findings are much more worrying. A staggering 74% of them occurred on the left side, while “only” 26% on the right one.
Driving may be the main culprit
Why is the left side more affected? Susan T. Butler, MD, coauthor of the study, suggests that “the increase in left-sided skin cancers may be from the UV exposure we get when driving a car”. The left side, is, in fact, the one more exposed to sunlight when we drive (of course, in the UK and countries where people drive on the right, the opposite would be true).
UV rays are present even when we don’t see them. They pass through clouds and are even reflect on snow. And their damage is cumulative. Even if you only drive for 5 minutes a day, over the course of a year your left side will have accumulated far more damage than your right one.
And while most windshields protect against sunburn-causing UVB rays, they still allow most of the UVA rays (which are responsible for both premature aging and cancer) to pass through. Rear and side windows, on the other hand, offer no protection at all. So, unless you have them tinted with strong UV filters, you can’t rely on them for sun protection. And even then, you should wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen anyway. You’ll need it when you get out of your car.
The Bottom Line
Always wear sunscreen before getting into a car. Even if you’re just the passenger. And, especially if you’re going to drive for a few hours, keep a bottle in your car so that you can easily reapply it whenever you need to. Remember, better safe than sorry!
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