What does skin cancer have to do with driving a truck? Quite a lot. Whether you’re an owner-operator or own a fleet of five hundred, SPF could be your best friend on the Open Road not just during the summer, but year round. Truck drivers are exposed to UVB and UVA rays as soon as they step into the vehicle. The long hauls leave the left-side of a driver’s skin exposed to long hours in the sun – even if the window is rolled up. The short hauls are not necessarily safer in terms of sun exposure. Exposure is exposure and sun safety is just as important as SMS scores – if not more.
Skin Cancer Stats
According to the Center for Disease Control CDC) Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. The following statistics refer to melanomas of the skin. Non-epithelial skin cancers, which are not reflected below, represent 7% of skin cancers that are tracked by central cancer registries. These statistics also do not include data for basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, which are not tracked by central cancer registries.
In 2009 (the most recent year numbers are available)—
•61,646 people in the United States were diagnosed with melanomas of the skin, including 35,436 men and 26,210 women.*†
•9,199 people in the United States died from melanomas of the skin, including 5,992 men and 3,207 women.*†
*Incidence counts cover approximately 90% of the U.S. population; death counts cover approximately 100% of the U.S. population. Use caution when comparing incidence and death counts.
†Source: U.S. Cancer Statistics Working Group. United States Cancer Statistics: 1999–2009 Incidence and Mortality Web-based Report. Atlanta (GA): Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and National Cancer Institute; 2013. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/uscs.
Truck Drivers – Exposed
Many truck drivers are career drivers and log not just hours on the road, but decades on the road. Overtime, continued sun exposure can lead to damaged skin and potentially skin cancer. Many of those in the transportation industry (and other industries as well) may have seen a photograph of a 69 year old truck driver in a recent New England Journal of Medicine article portraying significant sun damage (resulting from continued exposure while driving on the Open Road.)
According to Cnn.com, “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."
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.
Sun Exposure Solutions
Sunscreen. The solution – simple. The expense – nominal. A bottle of sunscreen with UVB and UVA protection will last for weeks and cost less than ten dollars. The ROI cannot be quantified. The health of you or your drivers is tantamount and providing education and safer driving conditions that combat the harmful effects of sun exposure should be on top of the list of to-dos.