SEATTLE – People in the U.S. are more likely to develop deadly forms of skin cancer on the left side of their bodies, and researchers at the University of Washington say how we drive may be a factor.
USA Today reports that UW researchers, looking at government data on skin cancer, speculate that because we drive on the left side of the car, our bodies are more exposed to harmful UV rays on that side of our bodies.
The researchers reportedly found that when skin cancer showed up on one side of the body, a little more than half of the melanoma and merkel cell carcinomas were on the left side. Also 55 percent of merkel cell cases on the upper arms appeared on the left side.
The researchers reportedly cited a study 25 years ago that found men in Australia, where they drive on the right side of the car, were more likely to have precancerous growths on the right side of their bodies.
The government database did not include information on skin cancer patients' other driving habits, such as whether they drove with the window rolled down or if they had their arms out the window.
Study co-author Paul Ngheim reportedly said that car windows will get out most of the damaging UV rays, although he added that UVA rays can penetrate glass and cause skin damage over time. He said that most people who drive with their windows up should not need to apply sunscreen before driving, USA Today reported.
More than 68,000 people were diagnosed with melanoma in 2010 and 8,700 died of it, according to the National Cancer Institiute.
The study was published in April's Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.