Astronauts travelling to Mars or on long-term missions outside the protection of the Earth's magnetic field would face much higher cancer risk than conventional risk models suggest, a study says.
The cancer risk for a human mission to Mars has effectively doubled following a UNLV study predicting a dramatic increase in the disease for astronauts traveling to the red planet or on long-term missions outside the protection of Earth's magnetic field.
Previous studies have shown the health risks from galactic cosmic ray exposure to astronauts include cancer, central nervous system effects, cataracts, circulatory diseases and acute radiation syndromes. Cosmic rays, such as iron and titanium atoms, heavily damage the cells they traverse because of their very high rates of ionization.
Conventional risk models used by NASA and others assume DNA damage and mutation are the cause of radiation cancers. This is based on studies at high doses where all cells are traversed by heavy ions one or more times within much shorter-time periods than will occur during space missions