as a flight
attendant significantly increases your risk
of a range of cancers compared
to the general population, a major study of cabin crew has found.
followed more than 5,000 crew and found that their risk of breast
cancer increased more than 50 per cent,
while risks of stomach cancers are raised by as much as 74 per cent.
study cannot prove what causes this increase, but the authors said
increased exposure to ionising radiation from time spent in the
thinner upper atmosphere as well as disrupted sleep and meal cycles
could be factors.
on Tuesday in the journal Environmental Health,
the study found a higher rate of every cancer outcome it looked at
when age was standardised.
report a higher lifetime prevalence of breast, melanoma and
non-melanoma skin cancers among flight crew relative to the general
population,” said Dr Irina Mordukhovich of the Harvard TH Chan
School of Public Health.
is striking given the low rates of overweight and smoking in this
increased cancer risk was seen in breast (3.4 per cent of flight
crew compared to 2.3 per cent in the general population), cervical
(1.0 per cent compared to 0.70 per cent), gastrointestinal (0.47 per
cent compared to 0.27 per cent ), and thyroid (0.67 per cent
compared to 0.56 per cent).
also found that risk of non-melanoma skin cancers rose with every
five years spent in the job.
attendants are exposed to multiple known and probable carcinogens in
the cabin environment. These include altitude-based radiation,
disruption to the body clock through irregular and anti-social shift
patterns and poor air quality inside the cabin.
studies have shown cabin crew have some of the highest radiation
exposure of any job, including those in the
nuclear industry, but this exposure is not required to be
routinely monitored as in other sectors.
flight attendants were also exposed to high levels of secondhand
tobacco smoke before inflight smoking bans were implemented.
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.
current or former US flight attendant was eligible to participate in
the study, with the vast majority (91 per cent) currently employed
in a cabin crew role.
study of 5,366 attendants working on domestic and international
flights in the US did not examine the health impact of frequent
flying among airline passengers.
said the findings suggested additional efforts should be made to
minimise the risk of cancer among flight attendants, including
monitoring radiation dose and organising schedules.