Melanoma More Likely in Aircraft Crew

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According to a new study published in JAMA Dermatology, researchers have found that pilots and cabin crew of aircrafts have double the risk of developing melanomas compared with people of the general population. Researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 19 studies that involved over 266,000 patients.


When comparing to aircraft crew to the general population, the overall standardized incidence rate (SIR) of melanoma was 2.21. Particularly, pilots had an SIR of 2.22 while cabin crew had an SIR of 2.09.


The researchers suggest that the reason for the increased risk of melanoma is an increased exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. They state that the UV radiation level at the altitude that most commercial aircrafts fly is about two times the level of that of the ground. UV radiation is well-known to damage the DNA of skin cells, thereby causing uncontrolled growth and, ultimately, skin cancer.


According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), over 76,000 Americans will be diagnosed with melanoma in 2014 and nearly 10,000 patients will die from the disease. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States.

Melanoma More Likely in Aircraft Crew
Pilots and cabin crew of aircrafts have double the risk of developing melanomas.

New research in the form of a medical literature review has found that the pilots and cabin crew of aircraft have approximately twice the incidence of developing melanomas compared with members of the general population. The authors of the study believe that this could be due to increased exposure to ultraviolet (UV) and cosmic radiation related to high altitudes.

Although officials routinely monitor levels of exposure to ionizing radiation, UV exposure is not usually recognized as an occupational hazard for pilots and cabin crew. UV is, however, recognized as a major risk factor for the development of melanomas. UV is known to damage the DNA of skin cells, and when the DNA that controls the growth of skin cells is damaged, skin cancer can develop.

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