Flight Attendants at Elevated Risk of Several Forms of Cancer

6_25_Flight attendant

Flight Attendants Have Higher Rates of Many Cancers, Study Says

"Similar policies are not in place in the US", Irina Mordukhovich, one of the authors of the study, told Business Insider.

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.

Fiering, who was not involved in the study but conducts research on flight attendants, said he found the higher rates of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer among women in the study "striking" - "especially to see a close to four-fold increase in non-melanoma skin cancer; that is substantial", he said. This includes non-melanoma skin cancer, uterine, gastrointestinal, cervical and thyroid cancers.

Some 3.4 percent of the women who flew for a living had breast cancer, compared to 2.3 percent in the general population. They are, for example, less likely to smoke or be overweight, and have lower rates of heart disease.

Though this research did not tell as to why the flight attendants are at a greater risk of cancer, the researchers involved in the study did point out some ideas.

Despite these known risks, flight attendants have historically been excluded from Occupational Safety and Health Administration protections typically granted to USA workers.

Job tenure did not appear to be associated with breast cancer, thyroid cancer, or melanoma in all women, but it was associated with higher risk of breast cancer in women who never had children and women who had three or more children, researchers said.

After taking age into account there was higher prevalence of every cancer looked at compared to the general public.

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It requires airlines to monitor radiation dose (especially for pregnant attendants), organizes schedules to reduce radiation exposure, and informs workers of current studies. "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". Women cabin crew, in particular, were more likely to develop breast, melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer.

Cancer Research UK has warned people working in these occupations should be fully aware of the potential risks.

The survey used validated questions from the Job Content Questionnaire and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

Other potential risk factors include sleep-cycle disruption brought on by overnight flights and crossing time-zones, past exposure to secondhand smoke in the cabin and ongoing exposures to chemicals such as pesticides, which are used to sterilize cabins on some global flights.

Researchers from the Harvard Flight Attendant Health Study (FAHS) have always been studying the matter, since 2007.

Although the cancer risks for frequent flyers have not yet been studied, there is no reason to suspect these people would not have similar risks as those faced by cabin crews, Mordukhovich said. For example, the flight staff participants tended to be older than control subjects and a larger proportion were women.

The study was only based on the health impact the cabin crew had due to their profession and not on the airline passengers.

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