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Pilots get closer to the sun than workers in any other profession, flying above the clouds at altitudes of 35,000 feet or more, but a new study has found they are at no greater risk of melanomas than anyone else.

The study by the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute examined depersonalised records of more than 20,000 pilots, 114 of whom had developed melanomas.

Lead author Catherine Olsen said it was the first study to examine melanoma incidence in Australian commercial pilots.

“A large percentage (of melanomas) were on the back, which is not what we would have expected if sun exposure in the cockpit was a driving factor.”

The findings were at odds with those from overseas studies which found pilots in Europe and North America had double the rate of melanomas compared to the general population.

Australian and International Pilots Association technical and safety manager Shane Loney said the conflicting studies were not helpful. “We would like to see a global study with the same methodology to address this issue once and for all,” he said.

QIMR contributing ­author Kyoko Miura said overseas studies were based on evidence collected from the 1940s. “Work practices and conditions have changed,” Dr Miura said.