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According to a blog post by Arizona Skin Cancer Institute from Arizona State University, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States today. The most diagnosed conditions are basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). These are considered “non-melanoma skin cancers” (NMSC), as a result, the actual number of cases is difficult to estimate because these cases are not required to report to cancer registries. The most recent study of NMSC occurrence in 2006 estimated approximately 3.5 million cases of NMSC, diagnosed among 2.2 million people (1). This is due to more than one NMSC being found in some individuals. BCC and SCC are usually very curable skin cancers. Almost all are caused by too much ultraviolet radiation (UVR) from the sun and tanning beds. Rates of NMSC in Arizona are presumably high, as we have year-round temperate days, exposing people to potentially excessive amounts of UVR.

Sun Exposure While Driving

Here is an interesting fact. The average American spends 55 minutes per day behind the wheel and drives about 15,000 miles per year. While most drivers may feel protected from the sun, studies show that Ultraviolet rays can very much penetrate through your car’s glass windows, increasing your risk of skin damage and even skin cancer. Additionally, because US drivers sit on the left side of the car, skin cancers are more common on the left side of the body due to the sun exposure coming through the windows. 

Do my car windows protect me from UV Rays?

The short answer is no. Whether a vehicle has clear glass or slightly factory-tinted privacy glass, it does not protect a person from being exposed to harmful UV Rays, and there can still be damage caused to a person’s skin. 

While car windows typically block out UVB rays, studies show they do not entirely block UVA rays. Some cars even have as low as 50% UV blockage, including vehicles with tinted windows. While the average windshield blocks some UV rays, side and rear windows (which are less regulated than windshields) usually let in these rays. Additionally, the cost of a vehicle is irrelevant. Whether it is a higher-end luxury car or a more affordable model, UV protection is rarely dependent on the price of a vehicle. Higher-end cars may offer as little UV protection as more affordable models.

The left side is more exposed to skin damage.

In the United States, with left-side driving cars, UV exposure is much greater on the left arm and 20 times more significant on the left side of the face. Sun exposure to the left side can cause other harmful esthetic damage such as wrinkles, sagging skin, and aging brown spots. In parallel, the more time you spend driving, the higher the risk of skin damage.

How to Reduce Skin Cancer While Driving 

Consider these valuable tips to protect your skin from sun damage while driving. 

Wearing Sunscreen

Before you jump in the car to head to wherever you may be going, it is wise to consider applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 15 or higher. Broad-spectrum sunscreens, unlike other products, protect your skin from UVB and UVA rays. 

Have an SPF sunscreen easily accessible to you. Keep extra sunscreen in your car, and re-applying every couple of hours is a great way to protect yourself from being exposed to damaging sun rays.

Wear Sun-safe Protective Clothing

Long-sleeved shirts, pants, and wide-brimmed sun hats, UV blocking sunglasses, and other sun-safe clothing particles are a great way to keep your skin protected from the sun. Keeping these items in your car so that they are easily accessible will help you be proactive regarding your skin’s overall well-being. 

If you love riding in a convertible vehicle, be sure to wear a wide-brimmed hat (ideally 3 inches all around) to protect your ears, face, neck, and scalp when riding. You can also shop for sun-safe clothing materials and keep these in your vehicle.

Professionally Installed UV Protection Window Tint

The windows in your vehicle, including the side windows and the front windshield, allow harmful UV exposure to reach your skin. 

Consider purchasing a clear or even slighting tinted ceramic window tint for car windows to keep yourself safe. The films sold and installed at TINT 360 block up to 99% of harmful UV rays, and research also shows that a UV-protection window tint can reduce sun damage to the skin by 93%. These films can be installed in one day and it’s easy to schedule your window tint appointment at a location near you. While transparent films are legal in all 50 states, be sure to check your state laws before applying a tinted film.

Keep Windows Up During Peak Hours

Your UV exposure is much more significant through an opened car window rather than a closed one. Keeping a car window shut, especially during peak sun hours (usually, 10 am to 2 pm), can help reduce your UV exposure. If you need your windows open, be prepared to apply sunscreen and wear protective clothing to keep your skin safe.

In addition to the information that we have provided, regular skincare checks, self-exams, regular doctor visits with a licensed dermatologist, other proactive sun-protection strategies, limiting your in-car sun exposure may reduce your risk of future skin damage or cancers. 

If you are concerned or worried about skin cancer recurrence, or even if you’ve never been professionally diagnosed with skin cancer, consider these steps to reduce your chances of developing skin cancer from sun exposure while driving. 

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