Drivers at Risk of Skin Cancer on Left Side of the Body

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You already know that you should protect your skin from the sun. Perhaps you have already adopted the habit of wearing protective clothing and/or using sunblock when you are outside on a sunny day. But do you remember to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays when you get behind the wheel?

 According to a recent study published by Dr. Scott Fosco, professor and chairman of dermatology at the St. Louis School of Medicine, drivers are at a greater risk of developing left-side skin cancers on sun-exposed areas of their bodies. And note that men seem to be at a greater risk then women.

 Out of a group of patients with left-sided skin cancer, 36% were women and 64% were men. It seems that men have a statistically higher incidence of left-sided skin cancer on the arm, hand, neck, and head.

 Plus, the study also noted, not surprisingly, that there is a correlation between higher incidences of left-sided skin cancer and the amount of time spent driving; i.e. the more you drive, the greater your risk.

 When you consider that 10% of the nation’s drivers are older then 65 — and that this number is likely to increase, as a greater amount of women than ever before are continuing to drive as they age — this study contains some important precautionary news.

 It’s not just the amount of time spent driving behind the wheel that is the only risk factor in getting left-sided skin cancer. The color of “melanin” in your skin determines whether it’s either helpful or harmful in the filtering of cancer-causing ultraviolet rays.

 Melanin gives your skin and hair its pigmentation. A study reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that blondes and redheads are more susceptible to skin cancer, as their melanin actually magnifies the damaging effects of the sun. If you find yourself within this group, be extra careful to take precautions when it comes to preventing ultra-violet radiation exposure from the sun.

 If you’re a driver, and you’re wondering what measures you can take to protect yourself from skin cancer, try the following: “Shade, a broad hat, and sensible clothing provide the best and most reliable sun protection,” as suggested by Dr. Jeffrey Schneider from the Department of Dermatology at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Rafael, California.

 He goes on to note that the proper application of a broad- spectrum sunscreen can provide additional protection. However, he cautions that using the proper amount of a sunscreen with a lower sun protection factor (SPF) provides greater sun protection than using a lesser amount of a sunscreen labeled at a higher SPF does.

 This is important to note, since most of us apply only 20 to 60% of the amount of sunscreen needed to actually get the protection that the SPF rating of the product promises. If you were to apply half the proper amount of sunscreen rated at SPF 25, then you would, in effect, only be getting a measured SPF of about 7.