By now you’ve most likely seen the picture of Bill McElligott, the truck driver who had severe sun damage on one side of his face.
It came from a, now famous, study by the New England Journal of Medicine released in 2012. It showed a truck driver who had been driving for over 28 years and showed signs of extreme aging on the left side of his face. The researchers concluded that the UVA that came through his truck’s window had caused intense damage on that side of his face, while the other half remained relatively smooth. It showed on a single face how powerful that sun can be at aging our skin.
The power of the sun
As a professional truck driver, you get a lot of sun exposure every day. It primarily hits the left side of your face and body. Although glass does filter out harmful UVB rays, it cannot filter out UVA rays and those rays can penetrate deeper into the skin.
And even when it’s cloudy, the sun can still cause harm. More than 80 percent of solar UV radiation can penetrate cloud cover, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation (SCF).
While many believe the sun can only be harmful when there is warm weather, but you can get UV damage year-round. Snow even makes the UV rays more intense because they reflect off of it.
So why is all of this important to you as a truck driver?
While you may not care much about wrinkles like Bill McElligott’s, you should care about the risk of skin cancer. The same type of UV rays that cause wrinkles also cause cancer.
Currently, 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime and the risk is even higher in jobs where you’re regularly exposed to sunlight, according to SCF. As a driver, you fall into the category of high sun exposure and need to be vigilante about sun protection.
Thankfully, skin cancer is treatable if caught early but prevention is critical to help avoid risk.
You should be visiting a doctor semi-annually to get checked for skin cancer as well as performing monthly self-exams.
How to Protect Yourself
There are few simple things that you can do to protect yourself from the sun while driving.
Wear sunscreen every single day: Even when it’s cloudy or snowing, you need to apply sunscreen to your face, arms and hands. You should focus on the left side of your body because it’s the most likely to receive the most sun exposure. According to SCF, you should be wearing SPF 15 at minimum, but SPF 30 is recommended. It should be a broad spectrum sunscreen that protects against UVB and UVA rays because UVA rays are the most likely ones to penetrate window glass and cause damage.
Cover up: Weather permitting, wear longer sleeves to protect your skin from the rays. Certain fabric won’t fully protect you from sun exposure so you should still apply sunscreen, but it will offer another layer of protection. Hats can also provide a level of protection for your face and head.
Wear sunglasses: The sun can also cause damage your eyes and even cause cancer. As a driver, your eyes are your most important asset so safeguard them with sunglasses that provide UV protection.
As a driver, you are at a high risk for UV sun exposure and skin cancer. By taking some simple preventative measures, you can protect your skin.