Driving Seems to Cause More Left-Sided Skin Cancer: Study
Today is the first day of summer. Sounds like a nice day to go cruising in your car, windows down, music pumping, breeze blowing. Right? Well, maybe not. According to researchers at the University of Washington, Seattle, cases of malignant melanoma and Merkel cell carcinoma, potentially deadly types of skin cancer, occur more frequently on the left side of the body. The reason? Driving your car.
The American Cancer Society estimated that approximately 68000 Americans were diagnosed with malignant melanoma in 2009. While only responsible for about 5% of skin cancer cases, it is 3 times more deadly than non-melanoma skin cancers (e.g., basal cell carcinoma). Malignant melanoma is responsible for the third most number of deaths across all cancers. Prevalence of this type of cancer is higher in areas with greater exposure to ultraviolet light (southern U.S. and Hawaii) and occurs more frequently in individuals with light skinned pigmentation.
Merkel cell carcinoma is a less common type of skin cancer that tends to occur in the head and neck region. This type of cancer is 100 times rarer than malignant melanoma. However, epidemiological databases state that the incidence of this cancer has increased three-fold between 1986 and 2001. Individuals with Merkel cell carcinoma have a very poor prognosis. Most of these types of tumors tend to metastasize (spread to distant sites) which ultimately is fatal.
The researchers at the University of Washington examined cases of ultraviolet-linked skin cancers, with the intention of seeing whether there were statistical differences in the numbers of cases on the left versus the right side of the body. There were greater numbers of left-sided malignant melanoma and Merkel cell carcinoma cases versus right sided. There were also statistically significant differences of facial and neck skin cancers on the left side versus the right side of the body. This lends credence to the notion that driving on the left side of a vehicle (as we do in North America) may be responsible for the excess numbers of cancers on the left side of the body. A 1986 study published in Australia showed that there were greater numbers of precancerous growths on the right arms of men versus the left; in Australia, people drive on the left side of the road, sitting on the right side of the car.Continued on the next page