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Background: As humans venture further into deep space, it is essential to possess an adequate understanding of the unique challenges and cancer risks associated with its exploration. Because of radiation exposure and other hazards, one of the risks facing space crews is carcinogenesis. Although utilizing engineering solutions such as radiation shielding to mitigate health risks like carcinogenesis is important, an over-reliance on these countermeasures would add excess mass and cost to the spacecraft. Therefore, we need to have a better understanding of cancer risks of being in a spacecraft to guide the study of health-based countermeasures that reduce the risk of cancer while also ensuring optimal spacecraft performance. Methods: Using PRISMA-ScR guidelines, we conducted a scoping review across PubMed, CINAHL, and ScienceDirect to explore published peer-reviewed health literature about cancer risks in space. We included original research articles utilizing human subjects or cells that found or evaluated risk factors or carcinogens that lead to oncogenesis from spaceflight. Results: Our search recovered a total of 600 unique results, of which 77 were deemed eligible for data extraction after screening. Factors contributing to cancer from space travel covered by literature include radiation, environmental toxins, microgravity, immune dysfunction, and genetic predisposition. Research subjects consisted of biological samples and human subjects, the latter of which were generally astronauts. Discussion: Research on cancer risk among humans who fly in space is in its infancy. This review concluded that research literature is concentrated primarily in Earth-based studies and radiation studies. Numerous journals from various scientific disciplines have contributed to research. There is also evidence supporting the interactions between cancer-causing factors in space to further increase risk such as the relationship between microgravity and radiation. However, we identified gaps in literature related to the pathophysiology behind immune suppression and a lack of consensus regarding risk probability models. A sound, multidisciplinary approach to studying cancer risk is necessary to ensure safe travel in deep space. There is a great need for more research to be conducted in a true spaceflight setting due to the constraints of Earth-based research and the lack of human settlements beyond low Earth orbit. Nursing practice is a vastly underrepresented profession in this discussion, which presents an opportunity for it to contribute to the field of space healthcare and expand on important questions related to risk reduction. As such, the need and directions for nursing research are also discussed.
Honors Capstone Research (HCR)
College of Nursing
Krejci, Brighton, "Cancer Risk in Human Spaceflight & Directions for Space Nursing: A Rapid Scoping Review" (2023). Summer Community of Scholars Posters (RCEU and HCR Combined Programs). 408.