Getting Behind the Wheel, Risking Skin Cancer

From the "it makes common sense" department... people who drive a lot are more prone to skin cancer on their left side. Well, in the United States; presumably UK drivers lean to the right with their sun-related skin damage. Scientists from the Saint Louis University School of Medicine in Missouri conducted a study of 898 patients from Midwestern university dermatology clinic -- 559 men, 339 women -- and found a significant number of skin cancers on the men's left side specific to the head, neck, arms, and hands. Sixty-four percent of the left-side cancers were found in men and about a third in women. When they correlated the incidence of cancers to patients' driving habits, it was apparent that the more a person drives, the more likely their chances of lopsided sun damage. They theorize that more men than women are seen with "driver's cancer" due to the generally higher rate of men doing the driving. Dermatologist Dr. Scott Fosko, who worked with the research team, says they expect to see a closing of this gender gap over time. As is often the case with sun-related skin damage, drivers with light complexions are more prone. The skin cancers seen in drivers who are on the road for a long time over several years gradually develop into basal cell carcinoma, the least aggressive type of skin cancer, and lentigo maligna, a melanoma caused by cumulative sun exposure as opposed to intense but intermittent exposure. So, what to do? Since an additional finding of the study is that rolled-down windows seem to provide less UV protection, drive with them rolled up. Tinting and UV filters help, too. The American Academy of Dermatology says that, for now, most cars have only UV B protection in their side and rear windows. As always, the best answer is to wear sunscreen of at least SPF 15 on any exposed skin.
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