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October/November 2014 (vol. 11/3)

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Research Plus

Pilots have double the risk of melanoma

A systematic review and meta-analysis of 19 included papers, published between 1990 and 2013, covering more than 266,400 flight personnel from 11 countries, finds that pilots and cabin crew have more than double the risk of melanoma skin cancer than the general population. The meta-analysis reveals a standardised incidence ratio (SIR) for pilots of 2.22 (CI 1.67–2.93) and for cabin crew of 2.09 (CI 1.67–2.62). For pilots the standardised mortality ratio is 1.83 (CI 1.27–2.63), and for cabin crew is 0.90 (CI 0.80–1.01). The summary SIR for males in any flight occupation is slightly higher (2.38; CI 1.75–3.23) than for females (1.93; CI 1.50–2.48). Occupational exposure to cosmic rays is considered a more likely explanation than lifestyle factors on grounds that a large observational study did not find any differences in the prevalence of risk factors, such as history of sunburn, sunbed usage, sunscreen application or taking sunny vacations. Nineteen papers met inclusion criteria, 15 covering pilots and four on cabin crew. 

Sanlorenzo M, Wehner MR et al. The Risk of Melanoma in Airline Pilots and Cabin Crew: A Meta analysis. JAMA Dermatology 2015; online first: doi: 10.1001/jamadermatol.2014.1077. 

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Occupational Health at Work October/November 2014 (vol. 11/3) pp45