The cancer risk for a human mission to Mars may be double what was previously expected, says a new study that is partly based on studying tumors in mice.

Astronauts are exposed to radiation from galactic cosmic rays when they travel outside the protective shield of Earth’s magnetic field. These cosmic rays — which originate from the shockwaves of star explosions, or supernovas — can disrupt the bonds inside human cells, leading to DNA damage and mutation.

“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,” said lead author Francis Cucinotta, a professor of radiation and space physics at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, in a statement. His study was recently published in Scientific Reports.

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