Epidemiologic Studies Of Pilots And Aircrew


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Abstract

During flight, pilots and cabin crew are exposed to increased levels of cosmic radiation which consists primarily of neutrons and gamma rays. Neutron dosimetry is not straightforward, but typical annual effective doses are estimated to range between two and five mSv. Higher dose rates are experienced at the highest altitudes and in the polar regions. Mean doses have been increasing over time as longer flights at higher altitudes have become more frequent. Because there are so few populations exposed to neutrons, studies of airline personnel are of particular interest. However, because the cumulative radiation exposure is so low, statistical power is a major concern. Further, finding an appropriate comparison group is problematic due to selection into these occupations and a number of biases are possible. For example, increased rates of breast cancer among flight attendants have been attributed to reproductive factors such as nulliparity and increased rates of melanoma among pilots have been attributed to excessive sun exposure during leisure time activities. Epidemiologic studies conducted over the last 20 y provide little consistent evidence linking cancer with radiation exposures from air travel.

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