Earlier this year, a travel video uploaded by TikTok user FindingFiona gained a lot of attention, garnering over 2 million views and over 1,000 comments. In her post, she highlighted the importance of wearing sunscreen on planes, citing reports of increased sun damage at high altitudes.
“Even if you’re on a plane, you’re actually experiencing more UV light, especially if you’re in the window seat, because of the altitude,” she said in the video.
Dermatologists say TikToker claims teeth Partially correct, but slightly wrong. “The good news is that the real risk from one-time or occasional flights is probably low,” said Dr. Elizabeth Jones, assistant professor of dermatology at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia.
But Jones said the risks are higher for flight crews and pilots. “People who fly for work, especially if they’re in the cockpit, are exposed to more UV light for more time given the size of the windshield,” she said.
Jones pointed to a 2015 study that found that pilots and flight attendants were nearly twice as likely to develop melanoma, a less common but more serious skin cancer, than the general population. .
So there is a relationship between the damage caused by planes and the damage caused by sunlight. Here’s what dermatologists need to know about the risk of sun damage at cruising altitude.
Airplane windows block most UVB rays, but not all UVA rays.
“Airplane windows effectively block most UVB rays,” Jones said. It can cause sunburn and skin cancer. So even if you’re sitting in a window seat, you’re unlikely to get a sunburn after your flight. But that doesn’t mean other damage won’t happen.
This goes for non-airplane windows, too, says Dr. Jennifer Holman, a dermatologist at US Dermatology Partner Tyler in Texas. “Most common windows in homes and cars filter out 97%, 98% of UVB radiation, the wavelengths commonly thought to cause sunburn,” she said.
Windows block these rays, but they don’t. all rays. Airplane windows don’t completely block UVA rays, which can “cause premature aging, wrinkles, and ultimately skin cancer,” says Jones. (However, Jones said: “Some of the older windows block about 50% of UVA rays.” “Some of the newer models are even more effective at blocking UVA.”)
Again, this doesn’t stop at planes. Holman said most glass windows, including car windows and the windows of your local coffee shop, don’t offer UVA protection either. In general, “most glasses don’t filter out her UVA,” she noted.
Wearing sunscreen on planes can protect you from these harmful rays, which, Holman says, penetrate “deeper into the skin” and kill “the deadliest form of skin cancer, black. It puts you at risk of different types of skin cancer, including tumours.”
So who needs sunscreen on an airplane?
Simply put, everyone.
Sunscreen is important to wear every day, whether you’re flying or not. “Of course, as a dermatologist, I recommend all my patients to apply sunscreen as a daily routine because of the exposures we face and the free radicals released worldwide from UV rays. “It’s a lot of work,” says Holman. He said.
While it’s important for everyone to wear sunscreen on planes, Jones said certain people need to be extra careful.
“Should anyone consider applying sunscreen on a plane?” she said. “Certainly, people with a personal or family history of skin cancer may want to use sunscreen for additional protection.”
Those with fair skin and sun sensitivity should also consider additional protection. The same is true for people with medical conditions that make them more susceptible to sun damage or taking medications that make them more sensitive to the sun, says Jones.
Holman said when shopping for sunscreen, you should look for one labeled “broad spectrum,” which means it protects against both UVA and UVB. This is always required, including on airplanes that are not protected from UVA light.
Holman emphasized that other protective measures besides sunscreen can help. “The importance of physical protection such as hats, sunscreen clothing and sunglasses to protect against UV rays also remains important,” she says.
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