According to a study published in Journal of the American Medical Association Dermatology, Airline crew is twice likely to develop cancer than the general population, due to regular exposure to the harmful Ultraviolet rays of the sun and cosmic radiation, when flying at high altitudes.

As per the study, ultra-violet rays damage the DNA of the skin cells which can result in skin cancer. According to the author of the study, Martina Sanlorenzo of University of California, “At 9,000 metres, where most commercial aircraft fly, the UV level are approximately twice that at the ground.” This study was partly funded by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

Sanlorenzo headed a team of researchers which conducted a meta-analysis of 19 different studies, involving over 266,000 participants. These crew members were airline employees from 1940-2008.The researchers found that the overall standardized incidence rate (SIR) of melanoma for flight-based occupations was 2.21. Getting into specifications, the pilots had a SIR of 2.22, which means they are 83 percent more likely to be diagnosed with skin cancer, while cabin crew had a SIR of 2.09. which translates to 10 percent lower risks. Thus the conclusion, that airline crew have double incidence of melanoma in comparison with the general public.

Skin cancer is the most prevalent form of cancer in the US. While melanoma accounts for less than 2% of skin cancers, it is known to cause the majority of skin cancer deaths. The American Cancer Society (ACS) forecasts that roughly 76,100 new melanomas will be diagnosed during the current year. It also estimates that around 9,710 people will lose their lives from melanoma in the US.

“Therefore, the cumulative UV exposure for pilots and cabin crew is still of concern, and the higher risk of melanoma evident in our meta-analysis could be due to greater occupation-related exposure to UVA radiation”, Sanlorenzo states.

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