A new study findings from the University of California, San Francisco report that aircraft pilots are at considerable risk of skin cancer, being exposed to ultra violet (UV) rays of the sun, which aircraft windshields do not completely block.
According to researchers, pilots flying for an hour at an altitude of 30,000 feet are exposed to the same amount of solar radiation as during 20 minutes on a tanning bed. These (exposure) levels could be significantly higher when flying over thick cloud layers and snow fields, which could reflect up to 85 percent of UV radiation.
The study found that airplane windshields, made of polycarbonate plastic, or multilayer composite glass, do not completely block UV-A radiation.
The researchers concluded that compared with the general population, airline pilots and flight crews may be twice as much at the risk of melanoma (malignant skin cancer). UV-A radiation can cause DNA damage in cells and its role in melanoma – a lethal type of skin cancer – is well known, according to the report.
Aircrews were also found to face an increased risk of exposure to cosmic rays -X-rays, gamma rays and subatomic particles – from space. While short-wave UV-B radiation cannot easily penetrate glass and plastic windows, long-wave UV-A is much more likely to get through, though both kinds of UV rays can cause skin ageing and cancer.