Updated: Nov 1, 2021
In the summer, we’re bombarded with articles, ads, news stories, and social media posts encouraging us to wear sunscreen whenever we’re outdoors. But what you may not realize is that sunscreen should not only be worn when you’re out of the house, but also when you plan to be in your truck or car for a long period of time.
Most vehicles typically include laminated windshields that filter out UV rays. But rear and side windows are made of non-laminated glass that only filter UVB rays and not the harmful skin-penetrating UVA rays. Aside from the infamous ‘Trucker’s Tan’, driving without sunscreen can also lead to premature aging and even skin cancer.
UV radiation is part of the light spectrum that reaches the earth from the sun. It’s wavelengths are invisible to the naked eye. These wavelengths are classified as UVA, UVB, or UVC. UVA and UVB rays reach earth, while most UVC rays are absorbed by the ozone layer.
Both UVA and UVB play an important role in causing premature skin aging, eye damage (including cataracts), and skin cancers. They also suppress the immune system, reducing your ability to fight off disease.
UVB rays are the main cause of skin reddening and sunburn and tend to damage the skin's outer layers. The most significant amount of UVB hits the U.S. between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. from April to October. However, UVB rays do not significantly penetrate glass, so these aren’t the ones you really need to worry about when inside your truck.
Throughout our lives, we are exposed to large amounts of UVA light. They are less intense than UVB rays, but up to 50 times more prevalent. They are also present during all daylight hours, throughout the entire year, and can pass through clouds and glass.
UVA rays penetrate skin more deeply than UVB rays and play a major part in skin aging and wrinkling. UVA also damages skin cells in the basal layer of the epidermis where most skin cancers occur.
How This Affects Truckers
A recent study published in The Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, found that people who had spent the most time driving each week were more likely to develop skin cancers on the left sides of their bodies and faces, the side exposed to more sun while driving. In patients with malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, 74 percent of the tumors were found on the left sides, compared with only 26 percent on the right.
To protect yourself, apply sunscreen to any exposed areas (like your hands, forearms, and face) every time you get into your truck for a long ride, regardless of the season. Make sure to use a broad spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays with an SPF rating of 50 or higher. You may also want to purchase a sun shirt, which will block most UV rays better than a plain t-shirt. Following these steps will help you and your skin stay healthy for the long haul.
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