I read on http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/12/travel/faq-frequent-airline-questions.html?mcubz=1:

“Pilots do have a higher incidence of skin cancer,” said Dr. James M. Spencer, a member of the board of directors of the American Academy of Dermatology and an expert in skin cancer treatment and cosmetic surgery in St. Petersburg, Fla., referring to several studies about skin cancers among airline pilots.

Why exactly more pilots have skin cancer is not known (for instance it could be from cosmic radiation, changing circadian rhythms or from, say, spending a lot of time outdoors in the places they fly to). And to complicate matters, no one has done a scientific comparison of instances of skin cancer in frequent fliers versus non-frequent fliers, Dr. Spencer said.

The article was written in 2012. Since then, have we understood why airplane pilots are more likely to have skin cancer?

  • 1
    I would guess that it may be because they are flying where the ozone layer is thinner so exposed to more ultraviolet radiation. They are also sometimes exposed to chemicals from aerotoxic events. I don't know if there have been studies but perhaps there could be windows that block UVA in newer aircraft?
    – padma
    Sep 10, 2017 at 20:26

1 Answer 1


A recent study confirmed the increased risk of airline pilots of a certain type of skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma or "BCC").

Incidence of cancer among licenced commercial pilots flying North Atlantic routes
December 2017, Environmental Health 16(1):86

The risk is increased relative to the general population (who fly less frequently). Whilst there can be no proof, the authors hypothesize that "Basal cell carcinoma of skin is radiation-related cancer, and may be attributed to cosmic radiation."

This seems a very reasonable conclusion from the data available.

  • Hmm...dead link.
    – BillDOe
    Dec 22, 2017 at 21:05
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    I changed your link to an anchor tag. I hope you don't mind.
    – BillDOe
    Dec 22, 2017 at 21:18

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