The research suggests for pilots to wear sunscreen when flying / Vladimir Maravic/Vetta/Getty Creative

Scientists recommend pilots use sunscreen

Airline pilots can be exposed to the same levels of radiation as people on sunbeds, a new study has claimed.

Previous research has suggested that pilots are at a higher risk of skin cancer, with ultraviolet radiation encountered in the cockpit believed to be a possible cause.

Scientists at the University of California measured levels of UV radiation in the cockpits of planes during flight and compared them to those observed in sunbeds.

They found that a pilot flying at 30,000 feet in a typical small aircraft for an hour, is exposed to the same level of ultraviolet A (UV-A) radiation as 20 minutes on a sunbed.

The measurements were taken at midday in April, in California, so the effect may not be so pronounced all year round and in all climates, but radiation is stronger at higher altitudes, and the windows on planes do not block it out.

The authors of the research, which is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association: Dermatology, said that it made the case for pilots to wear sunscreen when flying.

They also found that radiation could be even higher if pilots were flying above clouds or snowfields, because of the reflection of light from white surfaces.

"Airplane windshields do not completely block UV-A radiation and therefore are not enough to protect pilots. UV-A transmission inside airplanes can play a role in pilots’ increased risk of melanoma. We strongly recommend the use of sunscreens and periodical skin checks for pilots and cabin crew," the authors concluded.