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Driving Causes Higher Risk Of Skin Cancer In Left Arm

June 18, 2011

According to a new study, people in the U.S. are more susceptible to skin cancer on the left side of their bodies, possibly due to driving.

Researchers from the University of Washington in Seattle said driving may be to blame because the left arm receives more UV rays.

The researchers said that when skin cancer occurred in one side of the body, 52 percent of melanoma cases and 53 percent of merkel cell cases developed on the left side.

The study provides the strongest evidence to date of a left side bias in skin cancer cases in the U.S.

The National Cancer Institute says that in 2010, over 68,000 people were diagnosed with melanoma, and 8,700 people died from the disease.

Researchers found during a 1986 study that Australian men were more likely to show precancerous growths on the right side of their bodies.

Car windows do offer some protection by blocking most UVB rays, which is an intense form of UV that often causes sunburns.

“The reality is that any of the glass in the car will get out most of the bad UV,” study co-author Paul Nghiem said in a statement.

He said that UVA rays penetrate glass and can still cause damage to the skin over time.

Nghiem says for most people who drive with their side window closed, there is no reason to apply sunscreen before driving.  However, the study says for drivers prone to skin cancer who spend large amounts of time driving, sunscreen may be a good idea.

A 2003 study on UV exposure in cars advised professional drivers to keep their windows rolled up and to use air conditioning. 

“Truckers would certainly be a group who would want to be aware of UV exposure while driving,” Kelly Paulson, a co-author of the University of Washington study, said in a statement.

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

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