In the News: The True Effects of Sun Exposure

Skin Care

Aging Effects of Sun on Skin

 Photos courtesy of the New England Journal of Medicine.

According to a new case presented in the New England Journal of Medicine, years of one-sided sun damage really do make an enormous difference.

This man is a 69-year-old truck driver, having driven daytime hours behind the wheel for the 28 years.  The left side of his face, exposed to more sunlight, exhibits more fine lines, wrinkles, loss of elasticity, sallowness, and dryness.   This is due to largely cumulative DNA damage, decreased fibroblast (skin cell) production of collagen, and slowed cellular turnover.

Nuclear integrity and genome stability in norm...
While a little heavy on the scientific jargon, this diagram shows the cumulative effects of environmental stressors, especially UV light (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The window afforded little protection – while glass blocks nearly all UVB, it allows 62.8% of long-wavelength UVA rays through the window.  And it is the UVA that is responsible for many of the visible signs of aging.


More Than Just Superficial Damage

English: Two photographs of a man wearing suns...
English: Two photographs of a man wearing sunscreen (spf 50) on one half of his face, in visible light (left) and ultraviolet light (UV-A, 340-355nm) (right). The sunscreen on the left side of his face absorbs ultraviolet, making that side appear darker in the UV picture. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When sun damage occurs on only one side of the face, the name for his condition is unilateral dermatoheliosis.  Journalist Lisa Collier Cool uncovered numerous studies that point to increased left-sided sun damage and skin cancer for drivers.  For instance, researchers at the University of Washington studied cancer cases tracked by the U.S. government. Their findings, published in the American Academy of Dermatology, showed that when melanoma affected one side of a person’s body, it was on the left side—the driver’s side—52 percent of the time. Merkel cell cancers, another type of skin cancer, appeared on the left side in 53 percent of cases.

How to Protect Yourself

62.8% of UVA rays, responsible for many of the signs of aging, penetrate through windows. So wear sunscreen - even if you are indoors or driving! (Photo credit: Hacklock)

1.)  Invest in window UV film.  It’s possible to block up to 99.9% of UV waves with today’s modern technology. The Skin Cancer Foundation has information on window UV film, click here to see it.

2.)  Get professional window tinting for your home, office, and car.  According to Sun, regular tinting blocks 3.8% of UVA rays, whereas gray tinting blocks 99.1%.  However, you must get this professionally done for your car – there are state and federal regulations on window tinting.

3.)  Apply sunscreen whenever you drive or are indoors.  Many people think that they are safe when they indoors, but this is not the case.  In addition to 62.8% of UVA rays coming through windows, fluorescent bulbs can also emit a small but cumulatively damaging amount of light in the UV spectrum (GELighting).  So keep up that sunscreen use year-round – outdoors and indoors.

Bottom Line

Sun damage is no laughing matter, leading to premature signs of aging, DNA damage, and, in some unfortunate cases, even skin cancer.  Let this man’s story be a warning to us all to use sunscreen before driving.

To read more about this topic, please visit Yahoo!:  Evidence of Sun’s Aging Effect on Skin.  Let us know your thoughts on this topic!

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