Skin cancers are often found on the left forearm. Why? One reason may be that while a car provides substantial shading, the glass areas do not sufficiently block UVR exposure. And since it is not uncommon for people to send several hours a day in a car, the implications for skin problems are considerable.
In the United States, where the steering wheel is on the left side of the car, a study from the Saint Louis University School of Medicine highlights the higher incidence of left-sided skin cancers on the sun-exposed areas — head, neck, arms and hands — of drivers. Dr. Scott Fosko, MD FAAD, who conducted the study, said in an address to the American Academy of Dermatology, “Our initial findings confirm that there is a correlation between more time spent driving and a higher incidence of left-sided skin cancers, especially on sun-exposed areas in men.”
Dr. Fosko adds, “Our initial data shows that those individuals under age 70 who consistently spent the most time per week driving a car were more likely to develop left-sided skin cancers. We’re also finding that all drivers who occasionally drive with the windows open had a higher incidence of left-sided skin cancers. Light skin complexion and more driving time also increased the risk for forming skin cancers on the left side. Since there are more
cars on the road than ever before, it is likely that this trend will continue. And with more women than ever driving for work and family activities, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see higher reports of left-sided skin cancers in women in the future – gradually closing the gender gap that now exists.”
Further, damage to the eyes from glare and direct UVR increases the more people drive.
Federal and state laws regulate glass tinting for automobiles. Typically, an automobile´s side and rear windows are made from non-laminated glass that is designed to block UVB rays (the sun´s burning rays), but not the deeper penetrating UVA rays. Most windshields are made of laminated glass that can filter UVB and most UVA rays.
Under Federal laws, a vehicle’s driver-side and passenger side windows may only be legally tinted up to 70 percent visual light transmission, or VLT. This is the normal factory tint most new cars come equipped with. The higher the VLT, the more light will shine through the film.
Individual states can set their own guidelines for windows, and these guidelines vary greatly. For example, New Hampshire does not allow front side windows to be tinted at all but allows a 35 percent VLT on rear side windows. North Carolina allows passenger cars to have 35 percent VLT on both driver and passenger side windows, as well as on the rear window.
Many of these laws apparently consider heat, privacy and safety. In addition, there are safety concerns about using widow tint in cars. The tint can be reflective which is dangerous to other drivers and it can be difficult to see through at night. In addition, there are concerns about how tints affect the color perception and reaction times of drivers.
However, I have not found any direct discussion of sunburn or skin cancers.
We recognize the issue is complex, but we believe it’s time to restudy the issue with a direct focus on sun protection. The correlation between left-sided cancers and driving is established. With more people are driving than ever before we should find a tint that will protect drivers and passengers from UVR, including UVA.
Tinting automobile glass would greatly help us A- Avoid Unprotected Exposure to UVR of any kind.
In the meantime, follow Dr. Fosko’s advice. When driving apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher on sun-exposed areas and wear protective clothing whenever possible.
Be SunAWARE. Be Safe