Time Behind the Wheel Can Increase Risk of Skin Cancer

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If you are serious about skin care, the odds are good that you already know most of the common risk factors for skin cancer: fair skin, a history of sunburns, excessive sun exposure, and a personal and/or family history of sunburns are among the most common. You may even know that having many skin moles, living in a high-altitude climate, or having been exposed to certain industrial substances can also contribute to the risk for acquiring skin cancer. One factor you likely didn’t suspect? Time spent behind the wheel.

Recent research corroborates data that was studied as far back as 2007: the more time you spend driving, the higher your risk of developing skin cancer will be.

There are two causes for this correlation, both of which should be understood in order to protect against the danger that driving in the sun can cause. The first reason why driving increases the risk of skin cancer is direct exposure to sunlight. When driving with the window down, drivers are directly exposing themselves to sunlight–mostly in the facial region and, depending on posture, on the left arm. In fact, a study conducted in the Saint Louis University School of Medicine reported that skin cancer patients who spent significant time driving were roughly three times more likely to have cancer in the left side of their body as the right.

The second reason why driving increases the risk of skin cancer is perhaps a bit more surprising: even with windows closed, sunburns can still occur. This is because most car windows only block UVB rays–the type of light ray that causes reddening of the skin and sunburn. Deeply penetrating UVA rays, however, pass right through car windows–and even though they cause no visible effect, they can still cause skin damage, and even increase the risk of cancer.

The bottom line? Don’t make the false assumption that you are safe from sunburn while in the car. Sunscreen is never a bad idea on a sunny day–and be certain to limit time with the driver’s side window open, especially during peak sunlight hours. (Which typically occur between 10am and 2pm–though this varies depending on where you live and what time of year it is.)

To learn more about skincare–and to stay up to date with the latest news and research–visit our BHSkin blog regularly!

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