Scientists from the Saint Louis School of Medicine have concluded that there could well be a strong link between left-sided skin cancers in patients and driving.
Since previous scientific findings have shown an association between one-sided exposure to ultraviolet light (UV) and an asymmetric facial distribution of sun damage, we would expect that skin cancers also would be more prevalent on the left side of the body in drivers who spend a significant amount of time in their cars," said Dr. Scott Fosko, chairman of dermatology at the school.
"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."
In response to the growing dangers associated with UVB and UVA rays and skin damage that can lead to cancer, many skin care manufacturers have responded by launching sunscreen products that are increasingly effective and functional.
As well as more comprehensive and purpose-designed sun care products, this trend has also led to rash of niche products incorporating sunscreens, including foundations, moisturizers, lip balms and even hair care products.
Many of these products have targeted consumer protection on a daily basis. This is particularly relevant to individuals who might have frequent exposure to intense sun for short periods, when UV rays can still pose a danger.
Many such products on the market now contain an SPF of 10-plus, encouraging users to protect their skin in every day situations, not only on the beach.
But renewed evidence that UVA rays can filter through car windows, could see sun care and skin care manufacturers with even more reason to justify every day use of sunscreens.
The study, which was publicized at the recent annual meeting for the American Academy of Dermatology, included 898 patients (559 men and 339 women) with skin cancers on either side of their body.
It found that nearly two-thirds of left-handed cancers were found in men, as opposed to a third in women. Likewise the study found that this incidence directly correlated to the areas of the body most often exposed to UV radiation while driving.
Likewise, it also found that the number of melanoma caused by cumulative exposure, similar to the type of exposure experienced when driving, represented a significant subset.
"This finding supports our theory that drivers who regularly spend more time in the car over the course of several years are more likely to develop skin cancers on the left side of the body, particularly skin cancers like basal cell carcinoma and lentigo maligna that develop gradually," said Dr. Fosko.
The findings correlated with a survey of 70 drivers carried out by the researchers, which found that those who spent the most time driving per week were most likely to develop left-sided cancers.
The findings will also be noted by car manufacturers. Currently car side and rear windows are manufactured from non-laminated glass that protect drivers from UVB rays, but not the deeper penetrating UVA rays.