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Summer Driving May Raise Risk of Skin Cancer

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My favorite car (and a favorite friend) from the 60sCar accidents aren’t the only risk that drivers and passengers are exposed to. A recent study says that riding in a convertible with the top down, or simply having car windows open while driving, can lead drivers and passengers to develop deadly forms of skin cancer.

As states in its News/Cars section:

In the study, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, researchers from the University of Washington used a large government database to look at two particularly deadly forms of skin cancer, melanoma and Merkel cell carcinoma. They found that when the cancers occurred on just one side of the body, in more than half of cases it was the left side — particularly the left arm. Exposure to ultraviolet rays on the driver’s side is a likely contributing factor, the researchers said.

The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Washington in Seattle, analyzed cancer cases in a government database and provides the strongest evidence to date of a left-side bias in skin cancer cases in the U.S.

Jonathan Shorman, writes for USA Today:

Other research supports the idea that sun exposure while driving can contribute to cancer. In countries where people drive on the opposite side of the road, the right arm gets more sun exposure. A 1986 study cited by the researchers found that Australian men were more likely to show precancerous growths on the right side of their bodies.

People can protect themselves in cars from most UVB rays (the intense rays that often cause sunburn) by keeping the windows up and the convertible top on.

Study co-author Paul Nghiem said, “The reality is that any of the glass in the car will get out most of the bad UV.” He said that UVA rays, though less intense than UVB rays, do penetrate glass and can cause skin damage over time.

Most people who drive with their side window closed have no need to apply sunscreen before driving, Nghiem said. But the study says it would be a good idea for drivers prone to skin cancer who spend large amounts of time driving to use sunscreen.

Shorman’s article contains a caution for truck drivers: “Truckers would certainly be a group who would want to be aware of UV exposure while driving,” says Kelly Paulson, a co-author of the University of Washington study.

The government database that the researchers studied does not contain data on the driving habits of skin cancer patients, such as whether they drive with their windows up or down.

Image by gbaku (John Atherton), used under its Creative Commons license.


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