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June 5th, 2012
12:33 PM ET

Chronic sun exposure damages trucker's skin through glass

The striking photograph of a 69 year old truck driver in a recent New England Journal of Medicine article shows just how damaging the sun can be to your skin.

While driving a delivery truck for the last 28 years, the driver was exposed to ultraviolet A rays through the window glass on just the left side of his face. The rays penetrated the epidermis and the dermis, the first and second layers of the skin, causing a condition called unilateral dermatoheliosis.

Dermatoheliosis, also called photoaging, refers to changes in your skin due to chronic exposure to UVA and UVB rays. The result is a gradual thickening and deep wrinkling of the skin.

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), there are three main types of ultraviolet radiation. UVA rays can cause cells to age and damage the skin's DNA. They are linked to long term damage like wrinkles and can lead to some skin cancers.

UVB rays are the main cause of sunburns and are believed to cause most skin cancer. UVC rays are not present in sunlight and and not typically linked to skin cancer.

The Skin Cancer Foundation says UVA rays are less intense than UVB rays and up to 50 times more prevalent. They also penetrate the skin more deeply and are a major factor in skin aging and wrinkling.

The foundation's website says, "UVA is the dominant tanning ray, and we now know that tanning, whether outdoors or in a salon, causes cumulative damage over time. A tan results from injury to the skin's DNA; the skin darkens in an imperfect attempt to prevent further DNA damage. These imperfections, or mutations, can lead to skin cancer."

But, the foundation says, "UVB rays do not significantly penetrate glass."

Dr. Martin Weinstock, a professor of Dermatology at Brown University, and Chair of the American Cancer Society's skin cancer advisory committee, says UVB rays don't come through car windows unless they are open, and that even though you can get UVA rays through a closed window, the average person should not be overly concerned.

"In general there is not a huge amount of concern in people inside a car with the windows shut."

Weinstock's advice to consumers is to use a broad spectrum sun screen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays.  "Using sunscreen SPF 30 or greater is the simplest bottom line.  You gotta apply it whenever you're out for maximum protection.  You just have to apply it consistently and you have to reapply periodically, every few hours."

The ACS also recommends protecting yourself from UV rays by covering up, wearing a hat and sunglasses to block the rays and by limiting direct sun exposure in the middle of the day.  UV rays are usually strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.


soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. queenbee10

    this is usually a result of not only sun but of using antibiotics like Erythromycin and Penicillin (anything from the vicillin family) they often have severe reactions to sun exposure which results in plaque like rashes, itching and facial /skin disfigurment

    June 5, 2012 at 13:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Lilly

    Glass doesn't stop UV rays? Really?! i'm so shocked! (sarcasm)

    June 6, 2012 at 10:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Jonathan

    when will the government step in and ban such windows from being made! too many half faces are being double aged these days. think of the children.

    June 6, 2012 at 15:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Jo

    I bought a used Mustang in '06 with tinted windows. I have been pulled over twice for "tint". I have very white pale skin. I don't get a tan in the summertime, I get freckles. These cops need to go after the real criminals, instead of harassing a grandmother who is actually benefitting from the dark tint. It may be keeping me from getting skiin cancer.

    June 6, 2012 at 18:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Ash

    Stupid rules!? Why don't we switch over to the other side of the road each week? Each week then it would be Left and Right alternately!! Makes for interesting driving? Not only 80-year olds, even we can drive on the wrong side of the road then.

    June 7, 2012 at 06:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. P

    I have never been a fan of tanning of any sort, indoor or outdoor. The picture of a truck driver being chronically exposed to sun through the glass is quite scary. I appreciate that this article had a good break down of how each UV ray specifically damages our skin. I can now take special precautions before going outdoors and being exposed to the sun by buying a product that is SPF 30 or greater.

    June 14, 2012 at 11:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. BA

    I recently heard about guided imagery which could be used to help patients relax and focus on images associated with personal issues they are confronting. Surprisingly it has a good evidence that it can help cancer patients by improving quality of life and giving them sense of comfort. To learn more about guided imagery check out Natural Standard website

    June 14, 2012 at 16:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. link

    good morning i really seriously like every one of your articles just wanted to let all you guys know i love the unxplained world paranormal storys i highly recommend you carry on blogging

    February 3, 2013 at 07:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. teresapelka

    There had to be some other factor in the skin damage

    June 6, 2013 at 04:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Debbie Miller

    I've recently begun working with a product called NeriumAD, which is an anti-aging night cream that is showing remarkable results. I would love to send this man a free bottle to try. I believe it would help reduce the wrinkles that developed from sun damage. I can be reached at the e-mail above or http://www.dmiller5.nerium.com.

    June 22, 2013 at 16:18 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.