Thursday, June 14, 2007

Drivers' Skin Cancer Risk

You might think there's no reason to worry about the sun's harmful rays when you are driving. But you'd be wrong, as a recent study from Saint Louis University made clear. Researchers there evaluated data from 1,047 people with skin cancer and discovered that 53% of them had skin cancers on the left side of the body. When researchers looked only at cancers that were on the arms, hands, head and neck, they found more cancers on the left side (the side that is exposed while driving), especially in men. Researchers speculate that people who drive frequently may be more apt to have left-side cancers.

I spoke with Ellen Marmur, MD, chief of the division of dermatologic surgery at The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City to learn more about this surprising finding. She explained that for a long time, people assumed that the glass in cars blocked all UV rays, but now we know that while glass blocks most of UVB rays, it only filters less than half of UVA rays, leaving people vulnerable to damage from the sun. Until recently, it was believed that UVB rays were the main cause of skin cancer -- but recent research proved that to be wrong as well, with UVA rays equally potent and dangerous, says Dr. Marmur.
All windshield glass is laminated to protect shattering. As a result, it blocks more UVA rays than the glass in side windows, but still allows 20% of rays through. That plus the rays from the side windows ends up being a considerable amount of exposure. Convertible drivers -- even those whose top-down days were years ago -- have yet another skin cancer concern, says Dr. Marmur, which is skin cancer on the scalp. Hair offers some protection, but not much.

Tinted windows, popular in some areas of the country, have more protection than clear ones, says Dr. Marmur, but even better protection is available from special films that can be applied to clear or tinted glass to reduce UVA rays. Check with your car dealer or local garage for more information. Go to and type "UV film" in the search bar for a list of recommended products. However, she still advises everyone to wear sunblock or protective clothing when in the car for extended periods of time and, of course, keep the windows closed to avoid direct sun exposure. She reminds everyone to do a body check -- including the scalp -- each month, looking for any changes on the skin, and to see a dermatologist once a year for a full body check.

Source(s): Ellen Marmur, MD, chief of the division of dermatologic surgery at The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City.

Note from Lucy: I know that when my husband drives, he puts his arm on the car door and exposes his elbow and the arm around it. He tans there easily and now I wonder about his cancer risk....

PS. Yes, I'm still here. If you will remember, my husband was having a problem with severe pain radiating from his back, across his chest and down his right arm from a nerve problem. As of now the pain is practically gone and he has most of the feeling in his right arm and hand back. The doctors were also doing tests on the spot that they discovered on his liver. He also had a "sack of marble" in his gallbladder, which of course was a gallbladder full of stones. Thru testing they found out that there was a spot about the size of an inch down on the left lobe of his liver. There are no cancer cells but they want to go in and remove the spot. They also want to take out his gallbladder at the same time. Surgery is scheduled for July 6th. (the day before my nephews wedding).

I have also been in charge of a first level, ham radio class. It was very successful with 42 people in attendance and over half taking the test and passing. After the last class we had a "radio merit badge" class for the boy scounts in our area. It was a lot of fun watching the boys as they learned about ham radio.

I've also been teaching some food storage classes and busy with that. My new calling of "Ward Emergency Prepardness co-ordinator" is consuming a lot of my time as we are already in hurricane season. There is too much here to even try to tell you about right now, that deserves a blog all on its own and I'll do that later.

I've also baby sat for my two young grandkids while Jennifer and Justin took their first real vacation since they have been married. It was a lot of fun but tiring at the same time. You can tell from the pictures that Jen and Justin had a great time on their trip. Time away is essential you any married couple.

I have also started a new business in my home and that is another complete blog away. As you can see, I've been very busy the last month and that is why I haven't blogged. Glad to be back!


At 9:00 AM, Blogger Sherpa said...

I've always wondered about skin damage and driving...wearing a long sleeve shirt when you're driving for extended amounts of times, may just make does throwing a bottle of sunscreen in your car. Personally, my moisturizer has a spf-15 in it. As I get older, I think getting tan is less and less of a priority although I'm still tan...its a tan applying spf 30 religiously.

Anyway, good advice. I know I need to go get some moles checked out but have been putting it off.

At 10:41 AM, Blogger Oh great One said...

You know, my husbands left arm is always darker than his right! Luckily for him I'm always on the look out for new "spots". I'm light skinned and have had plenty o' sunburns so I'm a little wary!

At 12:23 PM, Blogger OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

You have been busy Lucy...And I dearly hope all goes well with your dear husband! Indeed, much is going on in your life....and I cannot imagine how tiring it had to be to have your grandchildren--fulltime...LOL, but fun I'm sure.

I don't frive an awful lot anymore and I never did have to drive long distances, except by choice. Also, I have the AIR on all year though as a young person I was more exposed, I haven't been for a great many years, except of course for that Front window. Great information, Lucy.

At 5:01 PM, Blogger Big Dave T said...

Sounds like you've been busy but it's good to see you back. I'm an arm-out-the-window driver too, so I'll have to be careful. I already have some skin spots the doctor is keeping an eye on.

Answering your question on my latest blog, grandpa (my dad) just got a new computer and internet hook-up today. The enforcer helped him to set it up. The enforcer has been busy with him babysitting grandchildren as well.

At 11:07 PM, Blogger SusieQ said...

Lucy, I am glad you finally posted something. I was worried about your husband's health.

It sounds like you have been one busy little bee. I don't know how you do it, but then you are a bit younger than me. That makes a difference.

On the skin cancer, I hope I haven't set myself up for skin cancer. I was a lifeguard in my late teens and had a lot of exposure to sun and this was before we knew that much about skin cancer.

At 1:36 AM, Blogger Merle said...

Hi Lucy ~~ Good to see another post from you. In Australia we drive on the opposite side of the road to you, so skin cancer would affect our right arms. Long sleeves seem to be the answer and lots os sun screen.
I do hope that your husband's surgery goes well on July 6th. You sure have been a busy lady.
Thanks for your comments on the Moonlight Ride. Like you, I wish some could learn BEFORE these things happen. Take care, Lucy,
Love, Merle.

At 8:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can always tell when some drives alot, because their arm will be tanner.

At 5:55 PM, Blogger Hathor said...

Didn't think anyone was interested in Ham Radio anymore. My Dad did it as a teenager. He would talk about it but never started up again. I didn't even see his equipment.

I hope the surgery goes well.

At 8:22 PM, Blogger Mountain Mama said...

I had not heard of this. Thanks so much for sharing. I don;t drive much but I know some who do. My cousin drives truck for a living. I'll let him know he needs a good sunscreen.

At 10:14 PM, Blogger Jamie Dawn said...

I wish your hubby a full recovery. My hubby had his gall bladder removed two Decembers ago, and my dad just recently had his removed. Your hubby will be glad when his surgery is over and those stones are no longer inside of him.

I wear sunscreen every day on my face and hands.
I have often wondered how much sun damage occurs while driving. Luckily, I don't drive long distances very often. Those who do really should heed the warning.

At 9:12 PM, Blogger Rachel said...

Glad to hear that your husband is doing better. I do hope that all goes well for him with his surgery. I was wondering how he was since you hadn't posted in awhile.

You have been busier than a one armed paper hanger it sounds like!! No wonder you haven't had time to blog!!

At 11:00 AM, Blogger Josi said...

I recently read an article where they said that trying to teach kids about skin cancer didn't do much to keep them from tanning--so they changed their marketing to teach them how tanning causes WRINKLES. That has made a difference. Kinda sad (she says now that she no longer lays out on the shed room every afternoon)

Great blog--good luck with hubby and everything else.


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