A video highlighting the dangers of not wearing sunscreen during a flight has gone viral on TikTok, receiving 1.8 million views.
The clip was shared by @teawithmd, the TikTok account of board-certified dermatologist Dr. Joyce Park. She is the founder of Skin Refinery, a virtual dermatology clinic.
A message overlaid on the video read: “Dermatology Lesson #21: When you learn pilots have twice the incidence of melanoma.” [the third most common type of skin cancer] and you should ABSOLUTELY wear sunscreen on airplanes or keep the windows closed.” The images featured a headshot of the dermatologist who appeared to be sitting on an airplane.
The message stated that “flying in the cockpit for 56 minutes at 30,000 feet received the same amount of ultraviolet radiation as a 20-minute tanning session.” [session].” He was referring to a 2015 study of airline crew, published in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Dermatology.
The study found that pilots and cabin crew have “approximately twice the incidence of melanoma compared to the general population.”
The message in the video added: “Even MORE UVA is reflected when flying over thick clouds and snow. Windows block UVB, not UVA.”
There are three main categories of ultraviolet (UV) radiation: UVA, UVB, and UVC.
UVA rays are not absorbed by Earth’s ozone layer, while most UVB rays are absorbed, but some reach the surface. UVC radiation is absorbed by the ozone layer and does not pose as great a risk, notes the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
UVA radiation is weaker than UVB but “penetrates deeper into the skin and is more constant throughout the year,” says the federal health agency.
UV rays can reach you on both cloudy and cool days, reflecting off surfaces like water, concrete, sand, and snow, the CDC explains.
Most cases of skin cancer are due to overexposure to UV rays. Among all types of skin cancer, melanoma causes the most deaths due to “its tendency to spread to other parts of the body, including vital organs,” warns the federal health agency.
In a caption posted with the latest viral video, Park wrote that the 2015 study measured “the amount of UV radiation in aircraft cabins during flight and compared it to cancer-causing UVA radiation.” [cancer-causing] effective doses in tanning beds. It turns out that you get a lot of UV exposure as a pilot.”
The dermatologist advised using sunscreen or keeping the window closed when sitting in the back “to reduce UVA exposure during the flight.”
Park said, “After all, you don’t want one half of your face to take more sun damage than the other! The more you know!”
Dr. Jaimie DeRosa is a Dual Board Certified Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon based in Boston, Massachusetts. She said news week: “I’m a pilot and I’ve definitely learned to be more vigilant with sun protection when I’m in the air.”
The surgeon said it’s important to wear sunscreen when flying because the higher you travel in the air, the thinner the atmosphere gets. “The atmosphere helps scatter harmful UV rays, so the thinner the atmosphere, the lesser this protection, and the more powerful and damaging UV rays are,” DeRosa added.
Several TikTok users welcomed the dermatologist’s reminder to wear sunscreen on a plane.
User @flyingfemme wrote: “I’m a pilot and I haven’t left my house without 70spf [sun protection factor] on my face in over 3 years.” The original poster responded, “Great job! A higher SPF still helps because most of us don’t use enough sunscreen or reapply sunscreen often to get the full benefits of the SPF.”
Sarah added: “I’m a pilot and often so wrapped up in other things that I didn’t even consider reapplying my sunscreen. Thank you.”
User greta wrote: “I’m a flight crew member and recommend wearing long sleeves! Don’t forget to put sunscreen on your hands.”
When PammyJayne65 said, “I thought UV rays don’t penetrate windows,” to which the original poster replied, “UVB rays are blocked by glass, but UVA rays pass through.”
Do you have any skin care health tips for air travel? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org and your story could appear in news week.