Are driving and skin cancer linked? Should you wear sunscreen when driving?
A new study from the University of Washington in Seattle has found that if skin cancer is on one side of the body, about 52% of melanoma cases and 53% of merkel cell carcinomas were on the left side. And, if the cancer was on the upper arms, about 55% of the merkel cell cases were on the left side.
Researchers say that Americans' driving habits may be the blame for this increased risk of cancer on the left side of the body, according to USA Today. After all, for the majority of Americans who drive on the left side, the left side of the body gets a lot more sun.
And conversely, in countries where people drive on the other side of the road, exposing their right side to more sun, they seem to show a higher propensity to develop precancerous growths on that side, USA Today reports.
But, do you need to slather on the sunscreen when driving? Maybe, if you drive with your windows down, if you have skin sensitivity or if you have a higher risk to develop skin cancer. Most windshields are designed to block UVA and UVB rays, while side and rear windows are usually designed to block only UVB rays, reports WebMD Health News.
UVB rays usually cause sunburns. UVA rays cause skin cancer.
So, if you want some broader protection for your skin when driving, putting on some sunscreen could be helpful. But be aware - in the U.S., "SPF" only refers to protection from UVB rays, not UVA rays, so the sunscreen you are putting on may not be as helpful as you think, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. Next year, new FDA regulations will make it so that SPF will have to refer to both UVA and UVB rays, but until then, reading the labels is key.
Because this study does tend to show a correlation between driving and skin cancer, putting on sunscreen when driving can be a preventative step. It is probably also advisable to keep the windows rolled up for the most part to further limit exposure to harmful rays.