Australian Pilots not at higher risk of melanoma than other Australians

Recently, ARPANSA co-authored a new study which found that modern airline pilots registered in Australia, appear not to be at higher risk of developing invasive melanoma than the rest of the population.

The study, led by QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, has been published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

This study is significant because it is a change from previous findings that focused on pilots in the northern hemisphere.

For decades, previous research showed much higher risks of melanoma in European and North American pilots, compared to the general population.

The Australian study was also conducted in collaboration with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA). QIMR Berghofer researcher and lead author, Associate Professor Catherine Olsen, said this study examined health information from more than 20,000 Australian licensed pilots.

‘We looked at de-identified medical records from 2011 to 2016 held by the CASA, and found pilots in this country were not at a higher risk of developing invasive melanoma than the general population,’ Associate Professor Olsen said.

‘These new findings may reflect that conditions on airliner flights have changed,’ added Dr. Rick Tinker, co-author of the study and Director of Assessment and Advice at ARPANSA.

‘Factors such as levels of short-wave solar ultraviolet radiation, which are the kind associated with melanoma, are mostly extremely low on today’s airliner flight decks.’

‘Other reasons why melanoma risk for pilots may have lowered, may be because pilots these days have different lifestyles and work practices. For example, they are expected to fly more and therefore have less layovers, especially in sunny destinations.’

Researchers hope this study will be built on further, using contemporary data gathered from around the world, in order to confirm whether commercial pilots in other countries are also no longer at increased melanoma risk.

The study was funded by the Australasian Society of Aerospace Medicine.

For more details on the study, visit QIMR Berghofer.

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