Researchers from the University of Washington found skin cancers were more likely to develop on the left side of drivers’ bodies in the US, linking this to the fact that Americans drive on the left side of their vehicles.
The new study backs up an Australian investigation into 'trucker's tan' from 25 years ago, which revealed that Australian men showed a higher rate of pre-cancerous growths on the right side of their bodies (our cars being right-hand drive).
The new research found that 52 percent of melanomas and 53 percent merkel cells appeared on the driver’s side of motorists’ bodies. The upper arms showed an even stronger bias, with 55 percent of merkel cells developing on the left side.
The study’s co-author, Paul Nghiem, encouraged motorists to drive with the air conditioner on rather than winding down the windows in warm weather.
“The reality is that any of the glass in the car will get out most of the bad UV,” Mr Nghiem said.
The stronger UVB rays are largely blocked by glass, although UVA rays – though less intense – can penetrate glass and cause skin damage over time.
The researchers suggested that professional drivers, as well as people who spend long periods in cars either as drivers or passengers, should be prudent and use sunscreen if they are prone to skin cancer.
The rate of skin cancer in Australia is nearly four times that of the US, Canada and the UK. Two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they are 70.
In total, 444,300 Australians are treated for skin cancer every year, and 1850 people die each year from the disease.