Do you think windows will provide sun safety protection? Think again. Glass windows only effectively block Ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, leaving you exposed to Ultraviolet A (UVA) rays. Car windshields are partially treated to filter out UVA rays, but side windows may be letting in 63% of the UVA rays.
Does it really make a difference? A recent study published in the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology discovered 53% of all skin cancers in the US occur on the left side (driver’s side) of the body. With early, non-invasive melanomas 76% were found to be on the left side.
Since, many of us drive our cars without applying sun screen or at least not doing it within the last two hours, how can we protect ourselves? Besides sunscreen you can have transparent window film applied to your car windows which will screen out almost 100% of the UVA and UVB rays without reducing visibility. It is available throughout the US. To ensure quality of window film, check to see if the product has The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Seal of Recommendation.
Sunroofs also increase your exposure to UVA rays. The study found over 82% of the skin cancers were on the person’s head or neck. If you have a sunroof keep it closed on sunny days or wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen. The second most common area for skin cancers were on the arm, so put on sunscreen and a long-sleeve shirt. Be sure and wear sun glasses too.
So if you are not safe from UVA rays in the car, what about your home or office windows? You guessed it. UVA rays are getting through. Another study found more signs of sun damage on the sides of people’s faces that were closer to a window. Home or office windows may allow at least 50% of the UVA rays to pass through. Wrinkles were one of the signs of sun damage seen along with rougher textured skin. The study found exposure to UVA rays accelerated the aging of the skin by five to seven years. This exposure increases your risk of skin cancer.
How do you protect yourself? Wear at least a 15 SPF sunscreen everyday year around. Install protective window film to the windows facing the sun of your office and home. Do you have shaded areas around your house for outdoor activities? If not install shade sails, awnings, or verandas with materials blocking out 94% as recommended. Trees and vine-covered pergolas can provide needed shade for outdoor activities as well as shade to windows in the house. Check out WebShade (www.webshade.com.au/) to do a shade audit for your property or to see how you can plan shade around your home.
Protect yourself from UVA and UVB rays by using sunscreen, installing protective window film, wearing sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat. Long-sleeve clothing will also help. Don’t forget to buckle up to stay safe.
Author: Pat Brinkman, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Fayette County, Miami Valley EERA
Reviewer: Beth Stefura, M Ed, RD,LD, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Mahoning County, Crossroads EERA
American Cancer Society, . What’s your sun safety IQ? Available at http://www.cancer.org/healthy/toolsandcalculators/quizzes/sun-safety/index
Greenwood, J. . Sun-safe homes. Available at http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/shade/sun-safe-homes
Skin Cancer Foundation, . Driving is linked to more skin cancers on the left side of the body. Available at http://www.skincancer.org/publications/sun-and-skin-news/summer-2010-27-2/driving-linked