Cabin crew exposed to greater cancer risk, study finds

Female flight Attendants used to illustrate the story

Mordukhovich said in a statement, "Flight attendants are considered a historically understudied occupational group, so there is a lot we don't know about their health".

These included those of the breast (3.4% against 2.3%), womb (0.15% against 0.13%), cervix (1% compared to 0.7%), gastrointestines (0.47% compared to 0.27%) and thyroid (0.67% compared to 0.56%).

Flight crews are routinely exposed to known and probable carcinogens, including cosmic radiation from space, circadian rhythm disruption and possible chemical contaminants.

At high altitudes, where the air is thinner and provides less of a shield, passengers and crew can be exposed to between 100 and 300 times the cosmic radiation dose they receive at sea level. As a group, they get certain cancers more than the general population, according to a new study.

Air cabin crews receive the highest yearly dose of ionizing radiation on the job of all USA workers, she added.

The Harvard Flight Attendant Health Study (FAHS), begun in 2007, addresses some of the gaps in understanding health risks among flight attendants. Now, researchers of a study published in the journal Environmental Health showed that flight attendance also has a high prevalence of a number of other cancers, which include gastrointestinal, non-melanoma skin cancer, uterine, cervical and thyroid cancers.

Researchers asked 5,366 flight attendants and 2,729 other adults with similar socioeconomic backgrounds whether they had ever been diagnosed with cancer.

In addition, some studies have found that circadian rhythm disruptions, such as jet lag, might be linked with an increased risk of cancer, she said.

"Our findings raise the question of what can be done to minimize the adverse exposures and cancers common among cabin crew".

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The authors also noted that longer-serving flight attendants had in the past been exposed to the affects of second-hand smoke before in-flight smoking was banned in the late 1980's and early 1990's.

Flight attendants had higher rates of all cancers investigated.

It requires airlines to monitor radiation dose (especially for pregnant attendants), organizes schedules to reduce radiation exposure, and informs workers of current studies.

However, according to Reuters, flight attendants are still less likely to die of all causes (except from a plane crash) than the general population.

Mordukhovich and colleagues also made another surprising discovery.

Working at 36,000 feet may come with a medical issue: flight attendants could be at an increased cancer risk compared to those of us who don't fly as often, a new study finds. They also observed that women cabin crew members have an increased risk of developing breast, melanoma, and non-melanoma cancer.

Some limitations of the study are that researchers were not able to take into consideration individual UV exposures, such as sunbathing habits or leisure-time activities, which could influence skin cancer risk.

"The fact that we are seeing higher cancer rates in this study population is definitely striking", she says. That exposure may not be concerning for people taking individual flights, but for people whose jobs involve flying, that risk may have a negative effect on their health, as the study results suggest.

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