The average American spends just shy of an hour a day behind the wheel. Those of us living in the DC Metro area, can spend triple that amount of time going to and from work. And that doesn’t even take into account all the travel we do on the weekends taking our kids to all of their events. Research shows we log an average of 15,000 miles per year.
Photo of a 69-year-old delivery truck driver (28 years) shows damaged skin on half of his face. New England Journal of Medicine
UVA vs UVB
While we are sitting in our cars, the sun is emitting two rays that can harm our health.
- UVA: The UVA rays are often associated with tanning as they’re the ones that will change your skin’s color. However, don’t think that means they’re good for you. A sun tan is actually a direct result of skin damage. It’s your skin’s way of trying to protect itself by building up more melanin in the skin.
- UVB: The UVB rays are also dangerous, they’re the rays that actually cause sunburn, which is also a result of sun damage, and ultimately lead to the most harmful effects in your skin, like causing wrinkles and all the other signs that we generally associated with aging.
Good News / Bad News
The good news: car windows typically block out UVB rays. The bad news: car windows do not fully block UVA rays. Some cars have as low as 50% UVA blockage. While the average windshield blocks most UV rays, the side and rear windows (which are less regulated) usually let these rays in.
The Exposure Risks
For US drivers, UVA exposure is 5 times greater to the left arm and 20 times greater to the left side of the face. Research has shown that all types of skin cancer are more common on the left side of the body due to drivers’ UVA exposure. In particular, melanoma skin cancers are significantly more likely to present on the left side, especially on the left arm. In one study, almost 75% of melanomas were diagnosed on the left side.
Extended exposure to the sun through the driver’s side window allows the sun’s harsh rays to penetrate the top 2 layers of your skin. Skin cancer is the most concerning result of this exposure. But are they others? Yep…thickening and/or sagging skin, skin leathering, thick wrinkles, premature aging, brown “age” spots…aka “Truck Driver Face”. Ummm, no thank you.