High-Flying Crews Face Cosmic Cancer

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Add cosmic radiation to the confirmed list of threats to the health of long-haul flight crews, although we don't know where it ranks along with deep vein thrombosis, boredom or the food. A British study has confirmed what pilots and flight attendants (and other studies) have been saying for decades. Spending too much time in the rarified air up there can be hazardous to your health. The study of 411 British Airways pilots showed increased rates of melanoma, colon and brain cancers attributable to cosmic rays. There's also a risk to the unborn children of pregnant crew members. "There's more data coming out about the risks," Michael Mijatov, of the Australian Flight Attendants Association, told The Age. "There's evidence that the higher you are, the more exposure you have to cosmic rays. He said female crew members more than 16 weeks pregnant are already prevented from working. Cosmic rays are made up of neutrons, gamma and alpha rays put out by the sun. The atmosphere filters most of them out before they reach earth but most airliners fly above much of that protective layer.