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Dermatologist explains why it's important to wear sunscreen on a plane

A video discussing the dangers of not wearing sunscreen during a flight is now viral on social media. It is a lesson on dermatology.

Dermatologist explains why it's important to wear sunscreen on a plane
Cover Image Source: TikTok | @teawithmd | Right: Pexels/Adrienn

A video discussing the dangers of not wearing sunscreen during a flight is now viral on social media. It first went viral on TikTok, where it has received 1.8 million views. The video was shared by @teawithmd, who is a board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Joyce Park. She is the founder of Skin Refinery, a virtual dermatology clinic. The video also had a message and it read, "Dermatology lesson #21: When you learn that pilots have 2x incidence of melanoma [the third most common type of skin cancer] and you should ABSOLUTELY wear sunscreen on airplanes or keep the windows shut."

Image Source: TikTok | @teawithmd
Image Source: TikTok | @teawithmd

 

The footage included a headshot of the dermatologist who was seated on the plane, as per News Week. The message also said, "Flying in the cockpit for 56 minutes at 30K feet received the same amount of UV radiation as that from a 20-minute tanning sesh [session]." This was in reference to a 2015 study of airline crew, and it was published in the peer-reviewed JAMA Dermatology. The study revealed that pilots and cabin crew have  "approximately twice the incidence of melanoma compared with the general population." The message in the video has also mentioned, "Even MORE UVA is reflected when flying over thick clouds and snow. Windows block UVB, not UVA."

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As per Newsweek, there are three types of ultraviolet (UV) radiation—UVA, UVB, and UVC. UVA is not absorbed by Earth's ozone layer, while most UVB is absorbed but some still reach the surface. While UVC radiation is absorbed by the ozone layer, it does not cause any risks, according to the U.S. 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." 



 

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UV rays can reach you on both cool and cloudy days, and they can penetrate surfaces such as water, cement, sand, and snow, as per the CDC. Most incidents of skin cancer are caused by overexposure to UV rays. Among all types of skin cancer, melanoma causes the most deaths because of "its tendency to spread to other parts of the body, including vital organs," warns the federal health body.

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In the caption of this video, Park wrote that the 2015 study highlighted "the amount of UV radiation in airplane cockpits during flight and compared them to UVA carcinogenic [cancer-causing] effective doses in tanning beds. Turns out you get a heck of a lot of UV exposure as a pilot."

The dermatologist suggested wearing sunscreen or shitting the window when sitting in the back "to reduce exposure to UVA during your flight." Park said: "After all, you don't want 1/2 of your face getting more sun damage than the other! The more you know!"

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Many TikTok users appreciated the dermatologist's advice 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 replied: "Good job! Higher spf still helps because most of us don't use enough sunscreen or reapply often to get the full SPF benefits."@Sarah wrote, "I'm a pilot and I'm often so absorbed with other things that I'd never even considered reapplying my sunscreen. Thank you."

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This is truly helpful advice and we cannot appreciate it enough!

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