Study: Driving May Contribute to Left-Side Skin Cancers

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Is there anything that says summer in America like cruising with the windows low and the tunes on high? Too bad the activity may be a health hazard, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Washington, Seattle, studying skin cancer occurrence in the U.S.

Analyzing skin cancer cases in a federal database, the researchers found that when skin cancer occurred on one side of the body, it was more often the left side: 52% of melanoma cases and 53% of Merkel cell carcinoma cases — two particularly deadly types of skin cancer — occurred on the left side. On the upper arms, the part of the body most exposed to UV rays while driving with the window open, 55% of Merkel cell cases appeared on the left side.

There’s been some past research to suggest a connection between sun exposure while driving and skin cancer. USA Today reported:

In countries where people drive on the opposite side of the road, the right arm gets more sun exposure. A 1986 study cited by the researchers found that Australian men were more likely to show precancerous growths on the right side of their bodies.

The windows of a car typically block most UVB rays, the type that causes sunburn. But UVA rays, which contribute to skin aging and cancer, still get through and can cause damage over time. For most average drivers who drive for short periods with their windows up, the study says there probably isn’t a need for extra precautions. However, for those who spend a lot of time in vehicles, like truck drivers; those who are at higher risk of skin cancer; and those who tend to drive with the windows or top down, it may be wise to use sunscreen.

The study did not differentiate between drivers who kept the windows up or down, or those who were more vulnerable to skin cancer, but it is the strongest evidence so far of a left-side bias in skin cancer in the U.S.

The study was published online in April by the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

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