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Malignancies Associated with Radiation in Aerospace Personnel-A Review of Evidence and Studies

David A Lachmansingh

It is no secret in the realm of Aerospace Medicine that radiation is considered to be a hazard to the health and safety of personnel such as astronauts, pilots, aircrew members, flight attendants and so on and so forth. The forms of radiation to which such individuals are constantly exposed to include extra-vehicular radiation e.g. UV and cosmic radiation and radiation emitted from onboard apparatuses, fuel etc.
Now, it is thought that the former (i.e. extra-vehicular radiation) poses more health risks to humans upon exposure in comparison to the latter. These risks include the development of malignancies, teratogenicity, mutagenicity and non-cancerous tissue damage e.g. cataracts. It is essential to appreciate the fact that the inhabitants of earth who do not engage in frequent air/space travel are protected to a certain extent from the above mentioned deleterious effects. Such protection is primarily received by means of the earth’s magnetic field and the atmosphere. Individuals who fly at high altitudes e.g. commercial pilots and aircrew members are less protected, especially if flight routes are high latitude (i.e. further away from the equator). Their counterparts in space (astronauts) however are not subject to this protection at all during occupation, and thus are potentially exposed to greater magnitudes of extravehicular ionising radiation.