Airplane Crews May Have Heightened Skin Cancer Risk

Melanoma was more than twice as common in pilots and others who worked on airplanes

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Melanoma is a life-threatening form of skin cancer associated with getting too much sun, and it may be a hazard for those who work on airplanes.

New research suggests that pilots and airplane crews, because they spend a lot of time at high elevations, have a higher risk of getting melanoma than people who don’t have an airborne office.

"Ask a dermatologist how to stay safe in the sun."

Led by Susana Ortiz-Urda, MD, PhD, the authors looked at past data on melanoma in pilots and airline workers.

Flight crews are thought to face a heightened risk of skin cancer because altitude may increase exposure to ultraviolet light and radiation from space, but that risk hasn't been thoroughly researched, the authors noted.

The authors looked at data from 19 studies with more than 266,000 participants total.

The study authors found that pilots had a 2.22 times higher risk of melanoma than the general population. Cabin crew members had a 2.09 times higher risk.

“This has important implications for occupational health and protection of this population,” the authors wrote.

The authors called for further research into occupational safety for airline crews.

Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. In 2014, 76,100 people will be diagnosed with melanoma and 9,710 will die, the study authors reported.

Common treatments for melanoma include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

The study was published online Sept. 3 in JAMA Dermatology.

The National Cancer Institute, the Melanoma Research Alliance, the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences and the National Institutes of Health funded the study. The authors did not disclose any conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
September 3, 2014
Last Updated:
September 4, 2014