Cancer Risk Rises for Flight Attendants, Especially Among Women

The study cannot say that being a flight attendant "causes" cancer; it can only make an observation that they seem linked.

It was one of the most extensive analyses of its kind and scientists described the findings as particularly alarming owing to their healthy lifestyles. The Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health research was one of the largest and most comprehensive studies of cancer among the group to date. "This is striking given the low rates of overweight and smoking in this occupational group".

Which cancer risks are increased in flight attendants? Their results were published Monday in the journal Environmental Health.

"This study is the first to show higher prevalences of all cancers studied, and significantly higher prevalences of non-melanoma skin cancer compared to a similarly matched US sample population", said lead study author Eileen McNeely of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston. Over 80 percent of the participants were female.

Cancer rates in male flight attendants were almost 50 percent higher for melanoma and about 10 percent higher for nonmelanoma skin cancers compared with men from the general population group, according to the findings.

In all, 5,366 attendants working on domestic and worldwide flights in the United States were examined.

Length of service did not appear to be a factor with breast cancer, thyroid cancer or melanoma in all women. Melanoma rates were just over 200% higher and non-melanoma skin cancer rates were about 300% higher.Male flight attendants, meanwhile, were about 50% more likely to suffer from melanoma and 10% more likely to have non-melanoma skin cancer.

Dr Mordukhovich said: "Nulliparity is a known risk factor for breast cancer but we were surprised to replicate a recent finding that exposure to work as a flight attendant was related to breast cancer exclusively among women with three or more children".

While these results confirm earlier research linking work as a flight attendant to an increased risk of certain cancers - especially breast and skin malignancies - the study wasn't created to prove whether or how the job might directly cause tumors.

This was especially the case if they were exposed to high levels of occupational secondhand smoke before the introduction of smoking bans in 1998.

Due to regular exposure to carcinogens, disrupted sleep cycles and possible chemical contaminants, flight attendants may be at a higher risk of developing several forms of cancer than others, finds a new research.

In the new study, the researchers looked at data from more than 5,300 flight attendants from different airlines who completed an online survey as part of the Harvard Flight Attendant Health Study.

They were surveyed about their health in 2014-15, when they were an average age of 52 years old. Over 7 percent of female flight attendants had been diagnosed with those cancers, compared to just under 2 percent of other women.

"Neither OSHA nor the FAA require airlines to educate flight attendants about onboard radiation exposure or offer protections during pregnancy, cabin air can be contaminated, and cabin crew fatigue is prevalent", Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, said in a statement.

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