Drivers face higher skin cancer risk, medics warn
Published 07/06/2013 | 05:00
Truckers, taximen and bus drivers are at increased risk of skin cancer because of the dangers of sunlight coming through windscreen glass, plastic surgeons have warned.
Drivers should practise "safe sun" and ensure they use sunscreen every day, making it as much a part of their routine as belting up.
Dr Jason Kelly, of the Irish Association of Plastic Surgeons, said the advice applied to all people whose occupation involved long stints in a car or other vehicle.
"Even in the dull, cloudy Irish climate UVA rays from the sun can cause skin cancer. Whereas UVB rays cause sunburn, UVA rays, which can penetrate windscreen glass, cause dermatological damage that can also lead to skin cancer," he warned.
He added: "It has long been known that certain occupations such as farmers or fishermen who spend a lot of time outdoors have a higher risk of skin cancer and sun damage to their skin.
"However, cancer specialists are finding an increasing number of patients who drive for professional reasons are coming to them with very heavy UVA damage to the part of their faces and arms that are on the 'window side'."
He pointed out that "scans show that a professional driver's face can show ageing of up to 20 years more on one side than the other.
"To prevent this, drivers in Ireland should use sunscreen as part of their everyday routine as much as putting on a seatbelt."
It is ironic that we get the worst of both worlds in Ireland – very little sunshine but a high susceptibility to whatever UVA rays that are going, said Dr Kelly, who works in Cork University Hospital.
He added: "The current weather is fantastic and very welcome but normally we imagine that because we rarely see the sun that the only real danger from it is an occasional bad episode of sunburn. The facts tell a different story.
"There are approximately 8,000 cases of skin cancers in Ireland a year and over a hundred of these cases are malignant melanoma.
"The latter are the most dangerous and while thankfully have a very good cure rate they do sometimes come to us in an advanced state and at that stage that is a very aggressive cancer."
The main treatment is by surgery, most commonly carried out by a plastic surgeon, with other forms of therapy such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy needed for advanced cases.
Meanwhile, the Irish Cancer Society urged people to be "sunsmart" during the current fine spell and wear a shirt with a collar and long shorts while also using sunscreen.