A lot of people think they’re safe from skin cancer as long as they avoid activities that subject them to prolonged direct contact with the sun like when walking or cycling a considerable distance in the morning or at noon, or when working in farms and construction sites. This is true, for the most part, but those who travel every day from their homes to their workplace using their car or above-ground public transport such as the bus fail to realize that their daily commutes can still subject them to prolonged sun (and UV ray) exposure.
Commuters’ Risk of Skin Cancer
This false sense of safety puts regular commuters at risk of getting skin cancer since they would deem it unnecessary to protect themselves from the sun (such as putting on sunblock) when they’re driving their car or taking the bus to work. Sitting on the window side of a bus for an hour or being stuck in traffic inside your car without any UV protection counts as prolonged direct contact, and can significantly increase your risk of skin cancer.
While it’s essential for people to be aware that their daily commutes can increase their skin cancer risk, it’s just as important for them to take note of these preventive tips to protect themselves as they travel to and from work:
#1 Apply Sunscreen at the Right Time (Even if it’s Cloudy)
The top two most common mistakes anyone makes when using sunscreen are: (a) applying it right before they expose themselves to the sun, and (b) not putting on sunscreen when it’s cloudy. Sunscreens don’t take effect immediately; in fact, it takes about 15-30 minutes before your sunscreen starts to work. In other words, if you go put sunscreen on just before going outside, your skin would be unprotected for the first 15-30 minutes of sun exposure. And remember, UV rays still permeate through clouds, and there’s always the chance of skies clearing up, so it’s best to protect your skin with sunscreen even if the weather forecast says that it’ll be a rainy or cloudy day.
#2 Always Have Sunscreen Handy
Make sure to always put sunscreen as one of the essential items that you’ll need to bring daily whenever you travel to and from work. When you’re running late, there’s always that chance that you’d forget to apply sunscreen, but if you have one in your bag (or in your car) you can apply it whenever you get the chance — although there is a delay before it starts to take effect, it’s still preferable than no having sunscreen at all.
Additionally, if you find yourself stuck in traffic for long periods or if you expect that you’d be exposed to the sun again, make sure to re-apply sunscreen (every two hours if you’re sweating).
#3 Seat Strategically (Or Tint Your Windows)
If you’re using public transport, try to avoid sun exposure as much as possible by not sitting by the window, especially if you forgot to put on sunscreen. As for car owners, you may want to consider having tints or window films on your car windows; not only would window films give you privacy while you’re driving around Charleston, but they can help block out harmful UV rays.
#4 Wear Protective Clothing
Lastly, it’s recommended that you wear comfortable protective clothing to cover and protect as much skin as possible (pants, long-sleeved shirts) when you commute. If wearing this type of clothing isn’t an option, consider bringing a scarf and a hat to help cover your skin. You should also wear sunglasses (or eyeglasses with light-adaptive lenses) to protect the sensitive skin around your eyes from harmful UV rays while also minimizing glare.
Commuters need to realize that they are at risk of getting skin cancer if they don’t take the necessary precautions when they travel to and from work. So, to lower your risk of skin cancer (and other skin damage caused by sun exposure), make sure to follow these tips and share it with friends and loved ones who also share the same burden of commuting each day.