Skin Cancer Tips – Truck Drivers and Skin Damage

Sun Safety Is an Important Part of Risk Management for Owner Operators

Did you know that 86 to 90 percent of skin cancers are related to sun exposure? “That’s why embracing proper sun protection is critical year-round,” says Perry Robins, MD, president of  The Skin Cancer Foundation.

This sun safety tip is important to the general population, but even more so for truck drivers and owner-operators, who may spend up to 14 hours each day exposed to the sun’s dangerous ultraviolet rays – and may not even realize it. The windshield and window glass in a vehicle do not filter out dangerous UVA rays, which cause signs of premature aging –including wrinkles and brown spots — and skin cancer.

Skin Cancer

Skin Cancer

In fact, drivers are at a greater risk of skin cancer, with a study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology finding more cases in the left arm and left side of the face in North American motorists.

UVA Rays: Invisible Killers

You may not even realize your skin is being damaged, because only UVB rays – not UVA rays — cause a sunburn or tan. UVA rays may not feel warm, and they’re just as strong in winter as in summer. In fact, when the sun reflects off the snow, UVA rays may become even stronger. All year round, they seep through glass, secretly damaging skin over the years and raising the risk of future skin cancer.

Just take a look at the face of William McElligott, who has been an owner operator for 28 years. The left side of his face – the side exposed to sun through the side window – looks decades older than the right side, shielded by the truck’s cab.

So what’s an owner operator to do? Taking proper steps to shield skin from the sun’s dangerous rays is an important part of risk management to preserve your future as a driver.

Prevent Sun Damage

Clearly, rolling up your windows won’t help since these sun rays permeate the glass. Apply sunscreen of SPF 30 before you head out, and re-apply every few hours or if you’ve been sweating. Consider wearing long sleeves to prevent the arms from sun damage.

You can also purchase UV-blocking shields for the windows, which will filter out UVA rays. It’s a good idea to wear sunscreen, anyway, for times when you roll down the window or step out of the cab.

Also invest in a good pair of sunglasses that block both UVB and UVA rays to prevent damage to your eyes, including cancer that could lead to blindness.

These steps should be a part of risk management classes and new driver training for owner operators.

Remember Sun Safety Out of the Cab, Too

While it’s smart for truck drivers to minimize their exposure to dangerous UVA rays while driving, you shouldn’t neglect sun safety when you’re not on the job, either. Try to stay out of the sun during its peak hours, typically from 10 AM to 2 PM, depending on the region.

  • Apply SPF30 sunscreen whenever you’re outdoors
  • Wear sunglasses in the sun
  • Wear a hat to shade your face from sun damage

Stay Aware

Be on the lookout for signs of photo-aging, or premature aging caused by the sun. If you start to see wrinkles, freckles, brown spots, or skin that doesn’t bounce back when it’s touched, you could be experiencing too much sun exposure. And if you notice any spots or moles that were not there previously, especially on your left side, see a dermatologist. Skin cancer is highly treatable if it’s caught quickly.

You don’t have to give up your trucking career as an owner-operator or resign yourself to skin disease or premature aging. These simple steps can save your skin – and maybe even your life.


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