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Medical Mythbuster: Can You Get Sunburned Through a Car Window?

Most people don’t apply sunscreen before they get into their car each day. However, if you do a lot of driving maybe you should. While it’s true that you can’t get sunburned through a car window, the sun’s rays can still damage your skin while you are driving. All automobiles have laminated windshields in the front that protect from both types of the sun’s ultraviolet rays (UVA and UVB). However, the rear and side windows of cars are usually made of tempered glass which does not protect against UVA rays. While UVA rays do not cause sunburns like UVB rays do, they actually penetrate the skin more deeply and are known to cause skin aging and skin cancer.

In fact, a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that skin cancer patients who had spent significant time driving a car each week were more likely to develop skin cancers on the left side of their bodies and faces – the side that is more exposed to sunlight while driving. Other studies have backed up this important finding. So although getting sunburned in a car (other than a convertible) is highly unlikely, long-term skin damage can occur if you drive a lot and your skin is not protected.

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