Have you been working your way up the corporate ladder to get that window office?

You might not be as excited once you hear about the effects of prolonged exposure to sunlight through glass.

How-Harmful-is-Tanning-Through-a-Window-2We all know that we get Vitamin D from the sun, but how does that work? When the sun hits our skin, certain wavelengths of light activate a chemical within the skin called 7-dehydrocholesterol. This chemical process then produces Vitamin D, which is vital for our body. The sad fact is, the UVB rays that help us create Vitamin D are blocked by most windows and the UVA rays that get through have a much darker effect on our bodies, which includes a strong link to skin cancer.

“There is already a skin cancer epidemic, with 1 out of 3 Caucasian Americans being diagnosed,“ says Dr. Joanna Chan, dermatologist and expert in skin cancer. “Most windows do not block UVA rays, so indoor workers can still be at risk for UVA exposure. This is particularly true if they commute a great distance in the car.”

So what are we supposed to do if the places we spend the most time in—our cars or our desks— are putting us at risk of skin cancer? Its best to use a “physical blocker sunscreen such as zinc and titanium dioxide based sunscreen,” says Chan. “They are most effective in blocking both UVA and UVB rays.”

Studies have shown that indoor workers face a greater risk of contracting skin cancer, even though outdoor workers get 3-9 times more sun exposure. This is most likely because absorbing sunlight outdoor where you attract both UVA and UVB wavelengths, is less harmful than only being exposed to those harmful UVA rays through glass. “Since UVA is thought to contribute to premature aging, as well as skin cancer, wearing broad-spectrum sunscreens and avoiding UVA exposure is important.” Says Dr. Chan.

Apart from applying sunscreen, we also need to get our skin cleared by a dermatologist regularly. “We do need heightened public awareness and education,” says Chan. “Seeing a board-certified dermatologist for an annual skin examination is probably the best course of action. This kind of annual screening should fall under preventative medicine and [should be] paid for by all health care plans. Catching a melanoma at the earliest stages is life-saving, much like getting a colonoscopy.”