Cataract :: Pilots at higher risk of cataracts

Airline pilots are at higher risk of developing cataracts because of exposure to cosmic rays while aloft, researchers said.

Researchers at the University of Iceland in Reykjavik studied 445 men aged 50 or older of whom 79 were pilots and 71 had cataracts, concluding the pilots had triple the risk of developing cataracts.

Cataracts, which can be removed surgically, cloud the eye’s lens and cause blindness. The type of cataracts studied were the most common, called nuclear cataracts, where the clouding begins in the center of the lens and spreads.

“The association between the cosmic radiation exposure of pilots and the risk of nuclear cataracts, adjusted for age, smoking status, and sunbathing habits, indicates that cosmic radiation may be a causative factor in nuclear cataracts among commercial airline pilots,” study author Vilhjalmur Rafnsson wrote in the journal, Archives of Ophthalmology.

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