That Sunlight Pouring In Through Your Flight Window Could Be Harmful

Planes fly at altitudes where harmful UV rays are not sufficiently filtered out by the atmosphere. This exposes you to harmful radiation that could cause skin cancer and other diseases
Clouds can reflect sunlight and ambient ultraviolet light  Photo credit
Clouds can reflect sunlight and ambient ultraviolet light Photo credit

We know it&rsquos a good idea to slather on sunscreen before hitting that beach destination. But what about sun exposure in the flight you took to get there

A 2015 study published in JAMA Dermatology&nbspevaluated the quantity of UVA radiation aeroplane crews were exposed to while flying. The study found that spending 56 minutes in the cockpit of a plane at 30,000 feet exposed flight crew members to the same amount of ultraviolet (UV) radiation as spending 20 minutes in a tanning bed. Furthermore, pilots and flight attendants are twice as likely as the general population to develop melanoma, a cancer induced by UV exposure.The study focused on crew members, but passengers are also at risk. 

While passenger windows in ariplanes are made of three layers of polycarbonate that filter a substantial amount of UVB light (the type that causes sunburn), the sun's rays get 6-10% stronger every 1,000 metres.&nbspYou are flying closer to the ozone layer where the sun&rsquos rays can seriously damage your skin. At flying height (approximately 30,000 feet or 10,000 metres), UV radiation is twice as strong as it is on the ground.&nbspFurthermore, the UV rays get reflected off of nearby clouds, and fill the cabin with ambient ultraviolet light, regardless of where you&rsquore sitting.&nbspAll this contributes to the increased danger from UV ray exposure for airline crew members as well&nbspas passengers.&nbspEven if you don't notice a noticeable sunburn when you step off a plane, you may have been exposed to pretty harmful quantities of UVA radiation.

UVA and UVB light are the two forms of ultraviolet radiation. Both are harmful. UVA photons penetrate deeper into the skin and are the principal cause of photoaging. UVB rays penetrate the skin's outermost layers, causing reddening and skin cancer. Most plane windows will block UVB rays, but UVA rays can will still get through.

Several studies and reports suggest that airline crews are at higher risk of melanoma. Even the Centre for DIsease Control (CDC) says&nbspaircrew are exposed to elevated levels of cosmic ionising radiation which is known to cause cancer. 

So what do you do Slather on high SPF sunscreen.&nbspDermatologists advise applying a thin layer of SPF 30 or higher with UVA and UVB protection to all exposed portions of your body one hour before flying (think face, arms, chest, and neck).

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