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Attention Drivers: Use Sunscreen to Avoid Becoming a Wreck

Doctor finds drivers have more lesions and wrinkles on skin near car windows

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Planning a car trip this summer? Before you buckle up, slather on the sunscreen.

Scott Fosko, M.D., chair of dermatology at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, says he sees more cases of actinic kerotoses (AK), which are precancerous skin lesions, on the left side of his patients' faces and foreheads than on the right side. Fosko suggests that driving a car could be the reason.

"AK lesions and wrinkles are due to the effect of sun and UV exposure over many years,” Fosko says in a news release from Saint Louis University. “We tend to see more skin lesions on the left side of the face because that's the side that's exposed to the sun when you are driving."

In the UK or other countries where drivers sit on the right side of the car, the effect for drivers would be exactly opposite.

And if you are a frequent passenger, don't foget your sunscreen. You are just as much at risk for wrinkles and skin cancer as the driver.

Short Car Trips Add Up to Long Sun Exposure
"Even if you only have a short commute, that exposure has a cumulative effect that builds up over many years," Fosko says. "If you want to avoid skin cancer, and if you want to avoid premature wrinkling and aging of the skin, you should wear sunscreen every day."

Use Sunscreen That Blocks UVA and UVB Rays
Fosko says that wrinkles are caused by the photo-aging effects of UV exposure. For maximum protection, use a sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays.

"UVA rays, the ones that cause wrinkles, go right through the glass of your car window," Fosko says. "Look for a sunscreen product with broad spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays. The physical blockers titanium dioxide and zinc oxide will block both, as will various chemical blockers. Check the label to see that the product protects against both."

Wrinkled Skin Signals Radiation Damage
According to Fosko, a tan is an indication that your skin is trying to protect itself from sun damage.

"Basically, wrinkles are not a reflection of age," he says. "They're a reflection of the amount of radiation damage. Some people who are 75 look like they're 35. When you get sun over many years you get the damage. The skin sags and loses elasticity. The great majority is from the sun."

Want to be a safe and healthy driver? Fosko offers this simple advice: "Put on sunscreen every day for the rest of your life. And wear a seatbelt."

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