Cataracts a risk for pilots and astronauts

According to the results of a new study, airline pilots have a greater risk of developing cataracts because of exposure to cosmic rays while flying.

Cockpit

The researchers at the University of Iceland in Reykjavik, studied 445 men aged 50 or older of whom 79 were pilots.

They discovered that 71 had cataracts, and concluded that the pilots had triple the risk of developing cataracts.

Cataracts which can be removed surgically, cloud the eye's lens and cause blindness.

The cataracts studied were the most commonly occuring ones, called nuclear cataracts, where the clouding begins in the center of the lens and spreads.

Study author Vilhjalmur Rafnsson, says that the association between the cosmic radiation exposure of pilots and the risk of nuclear cataracts, even when adjusted for age, smoking status, and sunbathing habits, indicates that cosmic radiation may be a causative factor in nuclear cataracts among commercial airline pilots.

Apparently smoking has also been found to raise the risk of cataracts.

The researchers say the same risks also apply to astronauts.

The study is published in the journal, Archives of Ophthalmology.

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