United States: American military veterans with a higher probability of melanoma, especially Air Force members, are victims of skin cancer, which ranks as the deadliest of them all.

The hazard is mainly due to the work-related risks around countries close to the equator where ultraviolet radiation (UV level) is high. The prolonged radiation encountered in the course of flying at higher altitudes makes Air Force vets even more vulnerable.

Know the reason behind

Dr. Rebecca Hartman, chief of dermatology at VA Boston Healthcare System, said during a presentation Friday at the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) annual meeting in San Diego, “Most members of the military tend to serve when they’re younger, which is when cellular mutations that cause cancer over time can start to develop,” as US News reported.

She added, “Challenges in practicing effective sun protection, like inadequate access to sunscreen or protective clothing and not having access to sun protection in times of conflict, contribute to this risk.”

Constant exposure to UV rays increases the risk of forming skin cancer.

Causes of developing Skin cancer

Hartman presented a review of a recently held study at the meeting, where she pointed out that various Iraq war veterans have said about rarely using skin protection or also not being aware of developing a skin cancer risk.

She noted, “Over 40 percent said that they were not aware of the risks for skin cancer, and nearly 75 percent said they worked outside more than six hours a day,” as US News reported.

Many Iraq vets are reported to have been sunburned. The most common risk of melanoma doubles when a person exposes themselves to more than five sunburns.

As per the experts, a single burn held in childhood or adolescence raises the odds of getting melanoma more than twice later in life.

Additional risk for Air Force veterans

Besides all the expected risks, Air Force veterans are also vulnerable to skin cancers due to the fact they were exposed to considerable amounts of ionizing radiation from high-altitude flights, Hartman concluded. The crew members should put on sunscreen during the day and undergo frequent health checks for skin cancer.

Vets are often diagnosed with melanoma at more advanced stages and when it is exactly tougher to treat.

Immunotherapy treatments

However, this does not stop them from having better prognoses compared to the population as a whole, according to Hartman.

This is a result of immunotherapy treatments, which function as a systemic therapy.

Hartman added, “Immunotherapy tends to work better in men than women, and it works better for those who are older compared to those who are younger, mainly because younger people and women generally have strong immune systems that can eliminate tumor cells efficiently and the remaining cells may not be easily detected by the immune system,” as US News reported,

“This makes certain types of immunotherapy less effective for younger people and women,” added Hartman.

Preventive methods, as experts suggest

Using the shade, wearing sun blocking clothing and applying a sunscreen of SPF 30 and above, are just a few ways of soldiers to mitigate their risk of melanoma, Hartman advised.

Additionally, as per Hartman, “It’s important for those in the military to use sun protection, especially when they’re in sunny areas, and for both military members and veterans to look for changes in their skin regularly.”


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