When we think about professions that are at risk for sun damage and skin cancer, lifeguards and road crews come to mind. As do constructions workers, farmers, roofers, and landscapers; but not truck drivers. They’re inside of a truck all day.
The truth is, sitting in a truck cab for many hours every day exposes drivers to harmful sun. Regular truck windows do little to protect a driver’s skin and as sunlight floods the cab, the driver is put at high risk for sun damage.
In 2012, the New England Journal of Medicine released a photo of how sun damage can affect drivers as a prime example. The photo showed dairy driver Bill McElligott, aged 66, whose face had aged significantly more on the left side than the right, after 28 years driving a truck with no protection from the sun. The sun’s UV rays had caused the skin to thicken and lose its elasticity as well as put him at a higher risk to develop skin cancer.
The sun’s ultraviolet rays, both UVA and UVB, are damaging to unprotected skin. The UVB rays are what cause the skin to burn or tan but UVA rays cause the skin to age because they penetrate the skin more deeply and can increase the risk of developing skin cancer.
Even when it’s cloudy, the sun’s UVA rays can get through, and when there’s snow on the ground, it reflects rays so it’s important drivers take steps to protect themselves from the damaging sun rays.
- Wear sunscreen. The sunscreen’s SPF (Sun Protection Factor) indicates how long you will be protected against UV rays but it’s not a shield. For example, if your skin usually begins to burn after 15 minutes in the sun, an SPF 15 will protect your skin for 15 times that, or 225 minutes (33/4 hours), if the recommended amount is applied. Even with the right amount, a small percentage of UV rays can still get through. Be sure to get broad spectrum so you’re covered for both UVA and UVB rays.
- Wear a hat. Choose one with a brim that will keep the sun off your face.
- Wear long sleeves. Even if you don’t drive with your left arm out the window, the sun can damage your skin.
- Wear sunglasses. Good ones will block out both UVA and UVB rays.
- Shield yourself. Buy UV-blocking window shields for your cab.
- Check yourself. Be on the lookout for premature wrinkles or spots that you haven’t noticed before or that have changed their shape. If you find any, have them checked out by a doctor immediately. When you have your annual checkup, be sure to have your doctor look for any signs of damage or skin cancer.
The vast majority of skin cancer can be prevented and is treatable―with early detection, the 5-year life expectancy for melanoma is 99%. This doesn’t mean that it’s not dangerous. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by the time they turn 70, and an estimated 7,230 people will die of melanoma in 2019.
Skin damage should be considered a serious health risk for all drivers. By diligently protecting your skin when you’re on the job and when you’re off, you can avoid the associated health problems and keep your skin looking younger too!