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Sunscreen Could Be a Flight Necessity

Sunscreen Could Be a Flight Necessity
Jennifer Billock

Heads up: If you’re a window seat flyer or a pilot, you should probably be wearing sunscreen — otherwise, your chances of developing skin cancer or damaging your skin are higher than you might think, according to the British Association of Dermatologists.

You may be sitting behind a glass window on a plane, but did you know that UV radiation is still leaking through, making it possible to develop melanoma?

“There are two types of UV radiation linked to skin cancer, UVA [ultraviolet A] and UVB [ultraviolet B],” Matt Gass told Telegraph Travel, speaking on behalf of the British Association of Dermatologists. “When you’re in a plane the UVB radiation, most associated with sunburn is blocked by the windows of the plane, but the UVA radiation is not. As you are much closer to the ozone layer the sun’s rays are much more harmful.”

And that’s just for flyers in window seats. For pilots, the damage could potentially be much more extensive. A study from 2015 found that about an hour flying at altitude exposes pilots to the same amount of UVA radiation as 20 minutes in a tanning bed.

“These levels could be significantly higher when flying over thick cloud layers and snowfields, which could reflect up to 85 percent of UV radiation,” the study said, reported by Telegraph Travel. “Plane windshields do not completely block UVA radiation and therefore are not enough to protect pilots. UVA transmission inside planes can play a role in pilots’ increased risk of melanoma.”

Some health experts say the statistics are speculative but better safe than sorry. So slather on some sunscreen before your next flight.

View Comments (2)


  1. sdsearch

    February 9, 2018 at 1:28 pm

    If you’re in a window seat (where the main concern seems to be for passengers), it sounds simpler to close the window shade than to put sunscreen all over yourself. Since I’m usually watching something on a screen, I prefer to have the window shade drawn 99% of the time at altitude (ie, not counting takeoff and landing).

  2. emilio911

    February 10, 2018 at 11:16 am

    Is it the same with the new shades that don’t close but are electronically tinted?

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