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High melanoma risk found in airline crews exposed to high-altitude radiation


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(NaturalNews) Flying a commercial plane comes with more risk than meets the eye. According to a new study in JAMA Dermatology, pilots are 2.22 times more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma in their lifetime than those in the general population. Likewise, members of the cabin crew are 2.09 times more likely to come down with the skin cancer. Acute exposure to ultraviolet radiation at high altitudes more than doubles melanoma risk, showing the need for more safety measures to be implemented in the cockpit.

The American Cancer Society estimates that melanoma will hit 76,100 Americans this year and take out an estimated 9,710 people. The risk is real for average citizens but is more than twice as high for pilots and airline crew members. Even worse news for pilots is that they are much more likely to die after diagnosis than the general population.

Pilots 83 percent more likely do die from melanoma than general population

The risk goes unseen and is unheard of, but working 40,000 feet above the ground on a daily basis apparently takes its toll on the skin. Researchers from universities in California and Italy, as well as the FDA, looked at nineteen published studies to investigate the melanoma risk that comes with this career. Assessing data on 266,431 participants, the new study soon found out how much greater the risk was.

Not only are pilots at over twice the risk of being diagnosed with skin cancer, but they are also 83 percent more likely to die from melanoma than the general population.

UVB radiation reflecting into the cockpit from the top and the bottom

The authors believe that it's not cosmic radiation or even UVB radiation putting pilots at greater risk for skin cancer. Only about 1 percent of UVB radiation actually penetrates the windshields of aircraft. Likewise, cosmic radiation levels are "consistently below the allowed dose limit of 20 [millisieverts per year]." The EPA reports that average Americans are exposed to about 3.6 millisieverts per year. The Agency also says that exposure levels of UVB are generally low and aren't a concern.

The researchers did assert, however, that UVA radiation can penetrate the glass of the aircraft's windshields, damaging those directly exposed, like pilots. The UVA is more dangerous the higher a plane flies in the air as the rays intensify. Intense UVA can damage DNA, causing mutations to occur in the skin cells. On top of that, a double dose of UVA often hits an airplane, because it can also be reflected from below, especially when planes fly above clouds or through snow-covered mountains.

In the study's abstract, the authors conclude, "Pilots and cabin crew have approximately twice the incidence of melanoma compared with the general population. Further research on mechanisms and optimal occupational protection is needed."

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