Pilots and Cabin Crew Fly With Greater Risk of Melanoma

Martina Sanlorenzo, MD Department of Dermatology Mount Zion Cancer Research Center University of California, San FranciscoMedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Martina Sanlorenzo, MD
Department of Dermatology
Mount Zion Cancer Research Center
University of California, San Francisco

Medical Research: What is the background for this study?

Dr. Sanlorenzo: We recently performed a meta-analysis and found an increased risk of melanoma in pilots and cabin crew. One of the possible occupational hazards responsible for this risk is UV radiation.

Medical Research: What are the main findings?

Dr. Sanlorenzo: We performed UV measurements in airplane cockpits during flight and we found that windshields blocked UV-B but allowed UV-A transmission. We compared the UV-A dose in airplanes with the UV-A dose in tanning beds, whose use is a known risk factor for melanoma. Pilots flying for 56.6 minutes at 30,000 feet received the same amount of UV-A carcinogenic effective radiation of a 20-minute tanning beds session.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Sanlorenzo:  Airplanes windshields are not enough to protect pilots from the UV-A radiation, and this could in part explain the increased risk of melanoma in these workers.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Sanlorenzo:  We recommend further studies including more precise UV measurements in several airplanes to establish occupation-related UV radiation dose limits for pilots. A better UV protection is necessary. We strongly recommend the use of sunscreens and periodical skin check examinations for pilots


Sanlorenzo M, Vujic I, Posch C, Cleaver JE, Quaglino P, Ortiz-Urda S. The Risk of Melanoma in Pilots and Cabin Crew: UV Measurements in Flying Airplanes. JAMA Dermatol. Published online December 17, 2014. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2014.4643.

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Last Updated on October 24, 2015 by Marie Benz MD FAAD