August 8, 2005

Pilots at higher risk of cataracts, study says

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Airline pilots are at higher risk of
developing cataracts because of exposure to cosmic rays while
aloft, researchers said on Monday.

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.

Smoking has been found to raise the risk of cataracts.

Astronauts have also been shown to have a higher risk of
cataracts, the report said.