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Your biggest skin cancer risk? You might be driving it

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Southern Californians love their cars. Whether it is a weekend cruise down the Pacific Coast Highway or just the daily commute down a crowded L.A. freeway, the majority of our time is spent behind the wheel. But have you ever sat in the drivers' seat, looked in the vanity mirror, and noticed that the left side of your face is showing more signs of wrinkles, leathering, sagging and brown age spots than the right side of your face?

The reason might be the very thing you are sitting in - your car.

Recent medical studies are suggesting that the majority of deadly skin cancers occur on the left side of the face and body. Research is finally confirming the long-suspected reason for this. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation Journal, American drivers receive up to six times the exposure to UVA rays on the left side of their bodies than they do on the right side. People who use sun roofs or drive convertible cars risk even higher levels of sun-related damage.

The results of these studies highlight how important is is to take protective measures against harmful UV radiation, even when just driving to and from work down the 405 freeway.

Here are a few important steps that can be taken to lessen your risks from harmful UV exposure while driving:

  • Always have a high quality sunscreen (SPF30 or higher) in your car

We all know (or should know) that we should never leave the house without applying a high quality sunscreen (SPF30 or higher). UVA-blocking ingredients that are a must include zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, stabilized avobenzone, and ecamsule (Mexory). But everyone should also keep another bottle of that same sunscreen in the car at all times and be sure to reapply to the head, neck, arms and hands after two hours of driving. Those 4 hour trips from Los Angeles to Vegas through the desert can be highly damaging to your skin.

  • Treat your vehicle to window film

While ultraviolet B (UVB) rays can’t penetrate glass, UVA rays can. Automobile windshields are treated to filter out UVA rays, but side and rear windows can let in over 60 percent of the sun's radiation. Applying a high quality window film to side and rear vehicle windows can screen out almost 100 percent of the harmful radiation without reducing visibility.

  • Be extra careful with the fancy sunroof or convertible

Having a convertible or sunroof is a Southern California tradition. We all want to enjoy the sunny lifestyle. But for those who do have such amenities, extra caution is needed to ensure protection from the sun. In addition to a high quality sunscreen, these drivers should wear a hat and consider long sleeve shirts (the second most common location for deadly skin cancers besides the head and neck are the arms).

There is no getting around the love affair we have for our cars in sunny Southern California. But drivers in the golden state have to be aware that the need to take precautions against harmful UV radiation does not go away once we jump in our cars. So put down that cell phone, watch the road, and make sure you are taking the necessary steps to protect yourself from the sun while behind the wheel. Your life might depend on it.

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