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'Passengers on long-haul flight at cancer risk due to change in solar activity'

August 18, 2011 - London

An expert has warned that billions of extra-terrestrial rays and particles could shower the Earth threatening the safety of planes and passengers.

Mike Lockwood, professor of space environment physics, had claimed that dramatic changes in solar activity could raise the risk of cancerous damage to the cells of those on board planes flying over the Poles.

The Reading University professor said that people who regularly take long-haul flights could be at particular risk from solar radiation.

In the future, those flying to Canada or the west coast of the U.S. at least two or three times a year should consider undergoing screening for potentially cancerous damage, he said.

His warning centres on changes in activity in the sun's turbulent magnetic field.

The signs are that we are coming out of a decades-long period of high activity, during which the sun was covered in dozens of dark spots and spat vast flares and balls of superheated gas the size of planets.

In between this and the coming quiet period is a "danger zone", during which more hazardous rays created by exploding stars and dangerous particles - made by clouds of gas spewed out by the sun - will hurtle towards Earth.

At very high doses, they could cause cancerous changes to the body's cells.

The Earth's magnetic field will shield most of us from harm, but those flying at high altitude over the Poles could be in danger, said Lockwood.


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