Truck Drivers Face Risk of Skin Damage From Years of Sun Exposure

The famous 2012 photograph of the sun-damaged truck driver.

The famous 2012 photograph of the sun-damaged truck driver.

If you’re a professional truck driver, you get a lot of sun exposure every day, and it’s mostly to the left side of your face. Even in the winter, you are exposed to UVA rays all day long. And, even if the sun doesn’t feel warm, it can still damage your skin. The UV rays are not diminished by the cold temperatures. So, even when it is 20° below zero, there are still harmful UV rays penetrating the skin and causing damage. When there’s snow on the ground, these rays actually reflect off the snow and become more intense. Even cloudy weather does not offer much protection. Up to 80% of UV radiation can penetrate cloud cover.

What Extreme Photo-Aging Looks Like

A famous study released in 2012 by the New England Journal of Medicine documented a Chicago truck driver who had driven a delivery truck for 28 years. The 69-year-old man presented with a 25-year history of gradual thickening and wrinkling of the skin on the left side of his face. Doctors concluded that the UVA rays transmitted through the truck’s window glass had penetrated the epidermis and upper layers of dermis, causing extreme photo-aging. Almost every news outlet picked up the story, along with the dramatic photo of the patient. This unretouched, actual photo demonstrates the effects the sun can have on aging of the skin. The right side of the man’s face is smooth, while the sun-damaged half is crevassed and pruned beyond his years. His condition is called unilateral dermatoheliosis.

Why Preventing Skin Damage is Important

Why is this story about a trucker with wrinkles on one side of his face important?  Because, while you may not care about wrinkles, you should care about skin cancer. The harmful UV rays that cause photo-aging skin damage are the same rays that cause skin cancer. These UV rays penetrate glass, causing skin damage without you even realizing it. The Skin Cancer Foundation reported one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Skin cancer is very common, especially in people whose jobs expose them to more sun, like truckers, construction workers, landscapers and painters. Fortunately, skin cancer is easy for doctors to spot, and when caught early, is highly treatable. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat it as a casual concern.

How to Spot Signs of Skin Damage

Without protection, just a few minutes of sun exposure each day can eventually cause noticeable changes to your skin. Freckles, age spots, spider veins, rough or leathery skin, fine wrinkles that disappear when stretched, loose skin, and a blotchy complexion, can all be caused by sun exposure. Over-exposure makes the skin lose its ability to repair itself because the skin’s collagen is broken down and the synthesis of new collagen is impaired.

How to Protect Your Skin

Here are a few things you can do to protect yourself from the sun all day while you’re in your cab:

  • Wear sunscreen every day: According to the FDA, sunscreen with spf 30 is the best option. Anything above spf 30 is not necessary, and anything below 30 spf is not effective enough. Reapply the sunscreen often throughout the day.
  • Install a UV shield: Your window does not filter all UV rays, but there are products you can put on your window that will. UV shields provide protection from the harmful UV rays. The UV shield won’t protect you from the sun when you step outside your cab, so it’s a good idea to also use sunscreen even if you have a UV shield.
  • Wear sunglasses: UV rays can also damage your eyes, even causing cancer. As a driver, your eyes are one of your most important assets.

Take measures to protect your skin and eyes from the harmful UV rays you are exposed to as a professional truck driver. Not only will you be preserving your youthful good looks, you will also be helping to diminish your risk of skin cancer.