Heard of Driver's Arm? What About Driver's Face?

Sunscreenuse

Many of us slather on the sunscreen before heading outdoors, but are you applying it before you get in the car for your morning and evening commute?

If you're not, you should be, especially if you spend hours a week driving a car with the sun beating down on just one side of your face. The photo of this 69-year-old man, who was a truck driver for more than 25 years, illustrates what the sun's UVA (long-wave ultraviolet) rays can do.

The man's case recently appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine. The unnamed man sought treatment at Northwestern University in Chicago for the deep wrinkles in the left side of his face that made him look 20 years older on just one side. His face's right side didn't receive the long-term sun exposure and looks appropriate for a 69-year-old.

The study's authors, Dr. Jennifer R.S. Gordon and Dr. Joaquin C. Brieva of Northwestern, write that the man's affected skin was likely exposed to UVA rays, which penetrate skin more deeply than UVB (shortwave) rays that cause sunburn, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. UVA rays also can penetrate clouds and glass.

The amount of UVA rays that get through a car's window depends on its tint. Honda uses two types of glass: green glass, which looks almost clear and has a light transmissivity of at least 75% by regulation; and gray glass, which looks tinted and has a light transmissivity of only 20%, said Honda spokesman Chuck Schifsky. "As light transmissivity decreases, UV protection increases," Schifsky said. So front-row occupants aren't getting as much sun protection as backseat passengers.

Green glass is the only type of glass that's allowed in sedans, and it's also used for windshields and front-row side windows in light trucks, he said. Gray glass is used for rear windows in light trucks, including SUVs and minivans. There's a limited number of glass suppliers for the auto industry, so other automakers have similar window-glass use.

A number of aftermarket window-tint products do provide UVA protection. When doing your research, however, make sure you're using a reputable shop to apply the various types of films and that your tint is in line with local law enforcement regulations. A good tint job should cost a few hundred dollars for a sedan.

If you don't want to spend the money, what can you do to stop what happened to the man in the photo?

"It's important to wear sunscreen daily, especially if you have a long commute," said Amy Derick, a clinical instructor of dermatology at Northwestern who wasn't involved in the 69-year-old's case. "Windows typically block UVB light, but not UVA light.

"It's common for me to see people with more photodamage on the left side [of their face] versus the right," Derick said.

To keep your skin healthy, use a broad-spectrum sunscreen, which protects against both UVA and UVB rays, and remember to reapply it before your commute home, too. The Skin Cancer Foundation also recommends wearing hats, wraparound sunglasses and long-sleeved, tightly woven clothing to protect the skin on your arm.

Remember an ounce of prevention — or sunscreen, in this case — is worth a pound of cure. The 69-year-old man will be monitored by his doctors for skin cancer.

Related
What 25 Years of Driving a Truck Can Do To Your Skin
(MSNBC.com)
More Safety News

Advice for Car Shoppers

By Jennifer Newman | June 13, 2012 | Comments (3)

Comments 

Carolyn

Keep a tube of Colorescience sunforgettable mineral powder/brush combo SPF 50 in your car and apply every time you get in. No goopy mess..Best stuff ever!

Emrad

A note about driver's arm... resting the arm/elbow on the door sill can be a risky practice, and not just because of sunburn.
I was in an accident a few years back, was hit from behind. When my vehicle lurched forward the back of the door sill hit me in the back of the arm... All I got was a bad bruise, I was lucky. It could have easily resulted in a broken arm!
:)

A lot of people refuse to acknowledge it, but the sun's rays actually can and will penetrate your car windows and cause disastrous effects as shown in the above photo. As a window tinting professional myself we always explain this to potential customers, however people seem to be more concerned with the aesthetics of their car windows and often opt for the cheaper window tint films that do not protect against UV rays.

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