Flight Attendants Have Higher Rates of Many Cancers, Study Says

Cancer Risk Rises for Flight Attendants Especially Among Women

Cancer Risk Rises for Flight Attendants Especially Among Women

Dr Mordukhovich, of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in the United States, and colleagues found out of the 5,366 U.S. flight attendants surveyed one-in-seven had been diagnosed with cancer.

More than 5,000 flight attendants participated in the study.

Flight attendants had higher rates of all cancers investigated.

Mordukhovich found higher prevalence of breast, melanoma, uterine, gastrointestinal, thyroid and cervical cancers among the flight attendants compared to the general public. The analysis looked at the cancer rates in these flight attendants compared to a group of about 2,700 people who had a similar income and educational status but were not flight attendants.

One possible explanation for these increased rates is that flight attendants are exposed to a lot of known and potential carcinogens, or cancer-causing agents, within their work environment, said lead study author Irina Mordukhovich, a research associate at Harvard University's T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Male flight attendants were found to have higher rates of skin cancer - 1.2% and 3.2% for melanoma and non-melanoma cancer, respectively, compared with 0.69% and 2.9% for the adult population as a whole.

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Flight attendants are exposed to a number of known cancer-causing risks, but few studies have rigorously quantified that risk, and researchers say they are an understudied occupational group. The association also noted that the United States federal government now does not require airlines to educate cabin crews about onboard radiation exposure, or to offer additional protections from radiation-including for pregnant flight attendants. Women cabin crew, in particular, were more likely to develop breast, melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer.

Taking age into account, the study found a higher prevalence of cancer in flight crew for every type of cancer examined. Eighty percent of the flight attendants in the study were women, as would be expected, the authors said, in a "feminized" occupation. Disruptions in circadian rhythm - a person's daily sleep-wake cycle - are linked to an increased cancer risk, studies have shown.

The authors used self-reported data from 5,366 U.S. flight attendants and compared it with data from a matching group of 2,729 men and women with similar economic status who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination survey collected during the same years.

Length of service did not appear to be a factor with breast cancer, thyroid cancer or melanoma in all women. On average, attendants were 51 years old and had been working in the profession for just over 20 years.

Dr Heutelbeck has also been treating passengers who are frequent flyers as well.

Earlier this month we reported how campaigners concerned by leaks of toxic fumes into cabin air on flights on passenger planes that have bleed air systems recycling air that has passed over the engine are calling for an worldwide inquiry into how this affects the health of passengers and crew. "What we do know for sure is the exposures that both pilots and flight attendants have-the main one being high radiation levels because of cosmic radiation at altitude". This despite cabin crew being generally less overweight and less likely to smoke than non-crew.

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