Chi-town
Topic Author
Posts: 893
Joined: Fri Sep 08, 2000 1:29 am

Pilots And Cancer

Wed Jan 17, 2007 5:57 am

Just trying to get some feedback on this subject. Ive been thinking about this and I was wondering if pilots are at greater risk to cancer due to being at high altitudes closer to the sun. Logically, wouldn't they be exposed to more radiation than an average person?

Does anyone have any statistics of Pilots with cancer as opposed to the average person?
 
cubastar
Posts: 312
Joined: Wed Nov 15, 2006 11:48 pm

RE: Pilots And Cancer

Wed Jan 17, 2007 7:31 am

Quoting Chi-town (Thread starter):
Does anyone have any statistics of Pilots with cancer as opposed to the average person?

No statistics, but I have had a few skin cancers (both squamous cell and basal cell) and a good many keratoses (precancerous lesions) and the majority of them have been on the left side of my face. I spent most of my time in the left seat. That being said, I do have fair skin and was blond (years ago).
 
N231YE
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RE: Pilots And Cancer

Wed Jan 17, 2007 7:42 am

I remember seeing once on Dateline or something similar, that pilots, flight attendants, and frequent travelers were at a greater risk of obtaining cancer since aircraft regularly fly higher than the ozone layer, exposing them to more ultraviolet light and cosmic tradition.

I haven't seen anything since, nor do I have statistics.
 
jetstar
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RE: Pilots And Cancer

Wed Jan 17, 2007 7:43 am

I have heard of some reports of pilots experiencing a slightly higher case of certain cancers, especially those pilots who fly the real long flights. They are exposed to solar radiation at altitude and can get a higher dose, especially if the sun spots are flaring up.

Because of the altitude they flew at, I remember reading somewhere they ran tests on the Concorde pilots and had them wear badges that detected solar radiation, like the badges that x-ray technicians wear to see how much radiation they were exposed to. I believe the test showed that although they were exposed to more solar radiation, it was well below the safe level, but only time will tell if it does lead to cancer.
 
brettbrett21
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RE: Pilots And Cancer

Wed Jan 17, 2007 7:44 am

www.airlinepilotcentral.com has a radiation calculator for pilots, so I'm assuming there is an added risk!
i'm so excited i wish i could wet my pants!
 
Ari
Posts: 116
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RE: Pilots And Cancer

Wed Jan 17, 2007 8:02 am

Hehe....there was a question about this on my GCSE mock paper!It stated that air crews and frequent flyers are more exposed to radiation...why was this?

They had previously shown that there was more backgroud radiation in the air than on the ground and that man made materials also created more background radiation so that was what I put!

aRi
 
ZKSUJ
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RE: Pilots And Cancer

Wed Jan 17, 2007 8:13 am

Quoting N231YE (Reply 2):
I remember seeing once on Dateline or something similar, that pilots, flight attendants, and frequent travelers were at a greater risk of obtaining cancer since aircraft regularly fly higher than the ozone layer, exposing them to more ultraviolet light and cosmic tradition.

I saw that one too. But there was no proof aparantly, just speculation or 'studies'
 
XXXX10
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RE: Pilots And Cancer

Wed Jan 17, 2007 9:24 am

When Concorde operated it was originally thought that the risk would be even higher as there is less of the atmosphere between the a/c and the sun.

It was suggested that all female F/As would be above child bearing age. This was later dismissed as although the radiation levels were higher the shorter cruise would even up the exposure.

Concorde was fitted with a radiation meter and there was a procedure to descend if the radiation got to high.

I don't think this was ever needed.

Slightly off topic I read that several captains wrote that the radiation levels would increase when overflying certain countries-none of them named the countries.
 
David L
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RE: Pilots And Cancer

Wed Jan 17, 2007 10:51 am

Quoting XXXX10 (Reply 7):
When Concorde operated it was originally thought that the risk would be even higher as there is less of the atmosphere between the a/c and the sun.

True but it was offset by the shorter flight times.
 
DeltaGuy
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RE: Pilots And Cancer

Wed Jan 17, 2007 10:55 am

My dad is in his 50's, been flying for 30 yrs, and has had a few taken off- some are as a result of not having his helmet visor down, the canopies on most fighters don't help much. He's since started wearing a ballcap and glasses, a habit I've picked up too. I've had one basal but wasn't a problem, but probably caused by the same sort of thing. (also fair skinned)

DeltaGuy
"The cockpit, what is it?" "It's the little room in the front of the plane where the pilot sits, but that's not importan
 
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falstaff
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RE: Pilots And Cancer

Wed Jan 17, 2007 11:13 am

Quoting Cubastar (Reply 1):
I spent most of my time in the left seat. That being said, I do have fair skin and was blond (years ago).

I wonder if truck drivers have similar issues? I see lots of truck drivers with their left arm resting on the window ledge of their trucks. Of course a truck is on the ground but having your arm in the sun for years would have similar results. I know some truck drivers and they always joke around about how a busy driver only has and tan on his left arm.
My mug slaketh over on Falstaff N503
 
georgiaame
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RE: Pilots And Cancer

Wed Jan 17, 2007 11:43 am

The cosmic ray and X-ray exposure is definitely greater at 30-40,000 feet than at sea level. UV which is going to induce skin cancers/melanoma is going to be negligible coming through the plastic windows, and the cockpit windows have that fancy metallic coating which further blocks the radiation. (It won't pass through the aluminum skin of the hull. What will get through a 787 composite skin I have no idea.) As I like to tell my patients getting a routine chest X-ray in my office, using ultra-fast screens on the film, 1 CXR is about the same level of radiation you would get on 3 cross country flights. We can safely do 3-4 CT scans per patient, per day, for 10+ hospitalized days, plus fluoroscopy which is a butt load of radiation, even if the patient is pregnant, if necessary, with no significant risk to the patient or fetus. I wouldn't recommend it if it could be avoided, but from a diagnostic or safety standpoint, we are not harming the patient. So no, flying is not going to put you at any significant risk. Certainly your risk of death from a car accident pulling out of my parking lot is much greater than your risk of cancer. (Of course, why increase risk if it isn't necessary?)

An unanswered question is the effect of deep space radiation. Astronauts on their way to the moon repeated reported bright flashes of light when the cabin was darkened. These were attributed to their retinas being blasted by heavy, high speed nuclei from intergalactic radiation. There have been multiple cancer deaths reported in American astronauts. Cause and effect? I don't know.

Be that as it may, give me a ticket to Europe, and I'm out of here. To the moon, well, maybe.
"Trust, but verify!" An old Russian proverb, quoted often by a modern American hero
 
okelleynyc
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RE: Pilots And Cancer

Wed Jan 17, 2007 12:05 pm

Quoting GeorgiaAME (Reply 11):
These were attributed to their retinas being blasted by heavy, high speed nuclei from intergalactic radiation.

Specifically, they were high Z particles that were penetrating their cranium and impacting their visual cortex. This is what sparked the visual phenomenon rather than a result of collisions with the retina. At least that's what's currently believed...

As for pilots and their exposure to cosmic radiation, there have been several studies that show that pilots are more susceptible to nuclear cataracts.
Just give me my Vario, my Ozone Mojo and a gorgeous day of soaring.
 
bond007
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RE: Pilots And Cancer

Wed Jan 17, 2007 10:18 pm

Quoting Falstaff (Reply 10):
I wonder if truck drivers have similar issues?

Well....they have the same issues that we all have on the ground if we are exposed to too much sun.

Truck drivers would only have similar issues to pilots if they routinely drive at 34,000 ft .... as far as I knoe, only Bus drivers do that today ... oh, and the odd UPS and Fedex delivery man.


Jimbo
I'd rather be on the ground wishing I was in the air, than in the air wishing I was on the ground!
 
airfoilsguy
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RE: Pilots And Cancer

Wed Jan 17, 2007 10:19 pm

Quoting N231YE (Reply 2):
remember seeing once on Dateline or something similar, that pilots, flight attendants, and frequent travelers were at a greater risk of obtaining cancer since aircraft regularly fly higher than the ozone layer

That is interesting, I didn't know there were planes out there that could fly higher then 160,000ft. The ozone layer is located around the top of the stratosphere. Never trust the media when it comes to aviation related facts, or for that matter anything having do with science.

Yes the higher you go the more radiation you are exposed to due to less atmosphere, but unless you are an astronaut, you have nothing to worry about.
It's not a near miss it's a near hit!!
 
GerbenYYZ
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RE: Pilots And Cancer

Wed Jan 17, 2007 10:27 pm

I can't remember when, but I remember seeing a TV program discussing a higher occurrence of sterility amongst male pilots. Can anyone substantiate this?
 
N231YE
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RE: Pilots And Cancer

Thu Jan 18, 2007 1:58 am

Quoting Airfoilsguy (Reply 14):
That is interesting, I didn't know there were planes out there that could fly higher then 160,000ft.

The ozone layer starts around 32,000ft, and is found throughout the stratosphere. So basically, as the aircraft flies higher, the concentration of ozone (O3) between the aircraft and the sun diminishes...thus reason for concern. However, since aircraft fly near the bottom, there is still plenty of ozone protection-just not as much as on the surface.
 
iflyswa
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Joined: Fri Sep 22, 2006 3:09 am

RE: Pilots And Cancer

Fri Jan 19, 2007 1:59 am

Quoting N231YE (Reply 2):
pilots, flight attendants, and frequent travelers were at a greater risk of obtaining cancer since aircraft regularly fly higher than the ozone layer, exposing them to more ultraviolet light and cosmic tradition.

Well, we wouldn't want to break with cosmic tradition, now would we?! Isn't that like breaking the laws of physics or something?

iflyswa
Opinions expressed by "iflyswa" are not those of Southwest Airlines Officers, Directors, or Employees.
 
Charliejag1
Posts: 226
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RE: Pilots And Cancer

Fri Jan 19, 2007 2:26 am

Well, techinically, pilots and FA's will live longer because at 500 knots time is slowed down a fraction of a percent. Reference Einstein's relativity theory. I'm not sure about the exact numbers, but you might gain a few minutes of life if you fly an airliner for 30 years.

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