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ibusinesslines.com December 10, 2018


Flight crew have higher rates of some cancers, study finds

28 June 2018, 08:46 | Melissa Porter

Tais Policanti—Getty Images

Tais Policanti—Getty Images

A study of more than 5,000 flight attendants found cases were higher for every form of the disease examined.

If you've even sat in the wrong spot, you're more likely to get sick. Some of this increased cancer incidence may be related to the number of years flight attendants spend in their jobs (job tenure).

Dr Irina Mordukhovich, corresponding author of the study at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, appearing in the Environmental Health journal, said: "Our study is among the largest and most comprehensive studies of cancer among cabin crew to date and we profiled a wide range of cancers".

Having three or more children-or none at all-was also a risk factor for breast cancer in female flight attendants.

Over 5,300 USA -based flight attendants took part in the Harvard Flight Attendant Health Study between 2014-2015, although the results have only just been published.

Other chemical contaminants found in the cabin may include engine leakages, pesticides and flame retardants, which contain compounds that may act as hormone disruptors and increase the risk of some cancers, Mordukhovich said. What makes cabin crew vulnerable to developing cancer?


A separate study in April involving almost 6,100 USA flight attendants found no meaningful link between cosmic radiation or circadian rhythm disruption and several cancers.

The analysis, one of the largest studies of cancer among cabin crew members to date, is the first to show that US flight attendants also have an elevated rate of non-melanoma skin cancer.

Mordukhovich said that aside from policy, crew members can take certain precautions such as wearing sunscreen on the aircraft to protect from UV rays, maintaining healthy and consistent sleep practices on their days off, as well as eating a healthy diet and exercising. Rates among flight attendants were especially high for breast, uterine, cervical, gastrointestinal, and thyroid cancer.

The lead author of that study, Dr. Lynne Pinkerton of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in Cincinnati, Ohio, didn't rule out the possibility that altitude-related radiation exposure or disrupted sleep cycles might be connected to cancer. Cancers of the skin, uterus, cervix, the digestive tract and thyroid gland were also all found to be more common in cabin crew. On average, attendants were 51 years old and had been working in the profession for just over 20 years.

British experts have estimated airline crews receive a higher dose of radiation over a year than workers in the nuclear industry. But there are no limitations or regulations in the US on how much exposure is safe for flight attendants.

Male caregivers also have a 50% greater risk of skin melanoma (1.2% vs. 0.69% in the general male population) and about 10% increased risk for skin cancer other than melanoma (3.2% versus 2.9%). The authors also caution that health outcomes were based on self-reported data that could not be validated through medical records due to the associated scope and cost. About 15 percent of the participants reported ever having been diagnosed with cancer, a higher prevalence than the general population. This despite cabin crew being generally less overweight and less likely to smoke than non-crew.



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