When you’re at the beach or lounging by the pool, most of us know
how important it is to practice the basics of skin safety. Apply a broad-spectrum
sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, liberally and often. Wear breathable,
light-colored clothing and a wide-brimmed hat, and avoid the sun between
10:00 A.M. and 4 P.M.
But there’s another potentially dangerous source of sun exposure
we need to be aware of year-round, and we’re all vulnerable in a
somewhat unlikely place: our cars
Sun Safety in Cars
If you're one of the approximately 208 million licensed drivers in
the U.S., a study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology
has something for you think about: nearly 53 percent of skin cancers in
the U.S. occur on the left, or drivers' side, of the body. The authors
of the double-blind study think this increase in left-sided skin cancers
is the result of UV (ultraviolet) exposure that drivers get while behind
Protecting Your Skin in a Car
Install Window Film
Both UVA and UVB rays are linked to skin cancers. Standard car window glass
only blocks out UVB rays effectively. Although car windshields are partially
treated to filter out the UVA rays, side windows let in about 63 percent
of the sun’s UV radiation. Rear windows are also unprotected, leaving
back seat passengers exposed. Transparent window film screens out almost
100 percent of UVB and UVA without reducing visibility and is available
in all 50 states.
Keep a hat, UV-blocking sunglasses and sunscreen in the car. The Skin Cancer
Foundation recommends using an SPF of 15 or higher on long drives, reapplying
every two hours. In the recent study, the second most common area for
skin cancers was the arm, so avoid propping your elbow up on the open
window. 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.
On a mild day, it’s tempting to roll down the car windows. If you
do, apply sunscreen on exposed areas, and keep your arms inside the car.
Long-sleeved shirts are also a great sun-protective option.
Skip the Sunroof
Drivers' heads and necks receive the most UV exposure, so it's
no surprise that the recent study found over 82 percent of skin cancers
in the drivers studied occurred on these areas. Opting for a solid, closed
roof provides the most effective protection-- and don’t forget to
apply sunscreen to your face, neck, and scalp.
About 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancer are associated with exposure
to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. But observing the basic rules of
skin safety in the sun, including these additional tips for protecting
your skin while in a car, can decrease the risk of developing basal or
squamous cell carcinomas by about 40 percent.