Cosmic rays, like titanium and iron and atoms, because of their very high rates of ionization, devastate the nucleus and cause mutations in the cells they traverse, and thus cause cancer.
Earlier studies predicted that astronauts are at the risk of circulatory diseases central nervous system effects, cancer, cataracts, and acute radiation syndromes due to galactic cosmic rays exposure.
A new predictive model to access cancer risk for a human mission to Mars was carried out by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Its results published in Scientific Reports reveal that cosmic rays radiation spreads from the damaged cells to nearby healthy cells, which doubles cancer risk to the Mars astronauts. This is because they will be outside the magnetic field protection of the earth.
"Exploring Mars will require missions of 900 days or longer and includes more than one year in deep space where exposures to all energies of galactic cosmic ray heavy ions are unavoidable. Current levels of radiation shielding would, at best, modestly decrease the exposure risks" said Francis Cucinotta, the research lead.
More studies focusing on cosmic ray exposure induced cancer risks should therefore commence before long term space missions.