Vehicular Melanoma: Why Skin Cancer Is Driving New Research

tanning

If only you lived in Europe– a new study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology says that left-sided skin cancers occur more frequently than right-sided ones in the United States, perhaps because of the sun we’re exposed to on our left side as we drive.

“We tend to see more skin cancer on the left side of the face; drivers need to be aware of the amount of sun exposure they receive behind the wheel,” says Scott Fosko, MD, chair of dermatology at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, who also co-authored the study. “The cumulative effect of being exposed to the sun builds up over many years.”

The Research

Of the approximate 1,050 cases of skin cancer inspected, researchers realized that basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma were the most common kinds of skin cancer, affecting nearly 90 percent of patients in the skin cancer study. Almost two percent of the patients were afflicted with invasive melanoma, which is more serious than other kinds of the disease.

Melanoma appeared primarily along the head or neck, a spot on the body that accounted for more than 80 percent of the melanoma locations. Most skin cancers showed up on the left side of the body, and men were increasingly more likely to have skin cancer on the left side of their neck and back.

Furthermore, the authors credit the vast cases of melanoma showing up on the left side of the neck and back to extra exposure of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays while driving. Perhaps this appears less commonly in women because they more often wear sun-protective makeup and are oftentimes more cautious about sun exposure in general.

Implications

There are more than one million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer diagnosed annually in the United States. On the other hand, melanoma is responsible for most of the nearly 12,000 skin cancer–related deaths per year. This study indicates that small amounts of damage skin can add up, and occur every day even as we head to work and pick up some things at the grocery store– not just when we use tanning beds or spend long hours at the beach.

 

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