According to research conducted by the St. Louis University School of Medicine, 53 percent of skin cancers in the United States occur on the left side of the body.
And while this statistic may seem random, researchers believe they know why.
The average American spends almost an hour each day behind the wheel of a car, exposing the left side of the body – the arm, face and neck – to more of the sun’s harmful ultra violet rays than the right side.
And the incidence of skin cancer on these areas of the left side is higher in men than in women. Researchers believe that’s because the study conducted on 900 skin cancer patients was performed primarily on older Americans, who often ride with their spouses. And in most cases, the man drives.
Alarmingly, 74 percent of the incidences of melanoma in situ (early, non-invasive melanomas that have not spread from their original tumor sites) were found on the left side of the body. The invasive melanoma is the deadline skin cancer, killing thousands each year. Researchers concluded that long-term chronic exposure to UVA rays increases the risks of melanoma in situ.
“It’s true that we see more skin cancers on the left side of body than on the right and that melanomas in situ are very dangerous,” says Richard Price, M.D., of Price Skin Care Clinic in Ridgeland, MS. “However, the risk of getting skin cancer on your left side can be reduced by following sun safety guidelines including using sunscreen, wearing protective clothing and installing UV protection film on your car windows.
Three Ways to Watch Your Left
1. Apply Sunscreen Before Driving
Keep a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a SPF 15 or higher in the car with you and get into the habit of applying it on your left arm, neck and face before driving. More than other sunscreen products, broad-spectrum sunscreen protects you from UVB and UVA rays. Reapply every two hours.
2. Wear protective clothing and accessories.
For additional protection, keep sun-safe clothes and accessories in the car as well. Long-sleeve shirts, long pants or skits, a wide-brimmed hat, UV blocking sunglasses and even a scarf can keep your skin protected from the sun’s UVA rays. This is especially true if you are driving or riding in a convertible.
3. Install UV Protective Film on Your Windows
Although your windshield will block most UV rays, your rear and side windows will not. As an added wall of protection, install UV protection film on your car windows. Some of these films block up to 99% of the sun’s UV rays. Clear films are legal in all 50 states but check with your state law before applying a tinted film. Note: In Mississippi, non-reflective tint is allowed above the manufacturer’s AS-1 line. Front side, back side and rear windows: must allow more than 28% of light in.
In addition, when possible, drive with your windows closed rather than open as that also limits the amount of UV exposure you’ll receive.
If you haven’t had your annual skin cancer screening this year, call Price Skin Care Clinic at 601-992-3996 and schedule yours today. It’s never too late to start living ‘sun safe.’