Unexpected Places for Sun Damage: Your Car!
Most of us are very conscious of going in the sun directly, but what about all of the indirect sunlight we encounter? Many recent studies have been done about the indirect sun light exposure through cars, windows, and simply taking a short walk. These studies show that even though we may think we are safe from sun damage when not at the beach, even indirect exposure to the sun can cause a fair amount of skin damage.
The LA Times recently came out with an article about the increase risk of skin cancer from exposure to the sun while driving. A new study concluded that some skin cancers are becoming more prevalent on the left side of the body than the right, and most researchers believe this is coming from sitting on the drivers-side.
There are many places in this country that may not have as high risk of drivers-side skin cancer, but in Southern California this is a huge risk. The researchers use the UV Index Forecast from the EPA’s Sunwise program to come up with their estimated skin damage. If a commuter takes a 30-minute to an hour commute in June in the middle of the day, when the sun is highest, the UV index would be around an 11. 11 is considered very high and has a large risk.
At this time of day those most prone to burning could start to burn within in 10 – 20 minutes, while those who don’t burn as easily it could take 45 – 70 minutes to get any sun damage. Most commutes do not happen during the hottest part of the day, but rather in the morning and evening, still sun exposure is happening. On average a morning and evening commute can range from a 2 – 5 on the UV Index scale. Although these are in a lower risk range over a long period of time this constant exposure can cause more damage than expected.
Windows do help to limit some sun exposure, but they do not prevent it. As the LA Times quoted the American Cancer Society notes
“Typical car, home, and office windows block most of the UVB rays but a smaller portion of UVA rays, so even if you don’t feel you’re getting burned your skin may still get some damage.”
This means that UVB rays are very limited, and UVA rays less so, but either way there is still sun exposure.
It seems obvious that one could get skin damage from even the smallest amount of exposure to the sun, but many of us don’t realize it because we aren’t getting burned. We need to remember to cover up and put on sunscreen on cloudy days, when inside, and when directly exposed to the sun. An easy way to cover up without the hassle of sunscreen is to use sun protection clothing. Many companies offer long sleeve and short sleeve products, as well as hats and shorts. We may have not make work apparel with sun protection yet, but I am sure that will be coming soon.