|December 18, 2014|
Airline pilots face sunbed levels of UV radiation in cockpits
|Airline pilots often boast enviable tans, but it may not be from the exotic locations that they travel between, but from spending too much time in the cockpit, research suggests. |
A new study has found that spending 56 minutes behind the controls at 30,000 feet is the equivalent of 20 minutes laid out on an average strength sunbed.
Researchers at the University of California fear that pilots may be at risk from skin cancer by chronic exposure to UV rays.
And the authors suggest the levels could be higher when pilots are flying over thick clouds and snow fields, which can reflect UV radiation.
"Airplane windshields do not completely block UV-A radiation and therefore are not enough to protect pilots," said Dr Martina Sanlorenzo, of the University of California, San Francisco.
"UV-A transmission inside airplanes can play a role in pilots' increased risk of melanoma.
"We strongly recommend the use of sunscreens and periodical skin checks for pilots and cabin crew."
UV-A radiation can cause DNA damage in cells and its role in melanoma is well known.
Plane windshields are commonly made of polycarbonate plastic or multilayer composite glass.
The authors measured the amount of radiation in airline cockpits during flights to Las Vegas in April and compared them with measurements taken in tanning beds.
The cockpit radiation was measured in the pilot seat of a general aviation turboprop airplane through the acrylic plastic windshield at ground level and at various heights above sea level.
Earlier this year the researchers found that pilots and flight crews face twice the risk of skin cancer compared with the general population.
However some critics claimed the increase was simply the result of airline staff flying to sunnier climes more often.
The new study suggests a reason for the increase in skin cancer rates.
For every additional 2,952 feet of altitude above sea level, there is a 15 percent increase in intensity of UV radiation.
At 30,000 ft, where most commercial aircraft fly, the UV level are more than twice that of the ground.