Flight attendants may have higher cancer rates

Flight attendants may have higher cancer rates

Sara Nelson, president of the country's largest flight attendants union, said the study's findings emphasize the need for more education and more preventative action.

Researchers found that flight attendants have higher rates of several forms of cancer particularly breast, melanoma, and non-melanoma skin cancer.

Flight attendants have soaring cancer rates compared to the general population, according to a new study.

The flight-crew rate was 0.15 percent compared to 0.13 percent for uterine cancer; 1.0 compared to 0.70 percent for cervical cancer; 0.47 compared to 0.27 percent for stomach or colon cancer; and 0.67 compared to 0.56 percent for thyroid cancer.

"Something that somewhat surprised us, to some extent, was that we also saw a higher instance of breast cancer in women with three or more children", said study co-author Irina Mordukhovich, a research associate at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The researchers found that in female flight attendants, the rates of breast cancer were about 50 percent higher than in women from the general population. The most striking thing is that this happens even though there are small percentages of overweight and smokers in this professional group, "said Mordukovic". According to the researchers, higher rates of breast cancer in flight attendants are also related to the fact that, due to the requirements of their profession, they usually have fewer children and acquire their first child at an older age than the average of women, with the risk of developing breast cancer.

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

Nearly every commercial flight begins with a member of the cabin crew delivering a spiel to passengers about inflight safety.

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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.

Flight attendants are often exposed to possible or probable carcinogens like pesticides, fire retardants, jet fuel and other chemicals more frequently than the general population. Funding for the study came from the Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute. "Combine that with this disruption from the job, especially for those who fly internationally, this may be an indication that the circadian rhythm disruption is having an impact". Cabin crew members are also regularly exposed to more UV radiation than the general population, which can make these workers more vulnerable to skin cancers, Mordukhovich said.

The authors couldn't link cosmic radiation or circadian rhythm disruptions to breast cancer because they couldn't isolate these two factors.

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

Over 80% of the flight attendants who took part in the study were women.

One of those carcinogens is cosmic ionizing radiation, which is elevated at higher altitudes, Mordukhovich told Live Science.

Earlier this month we reported how campaigners concerned by leaks of toxic fumes into cabin air on flights on passenger planes that have bleed air systems recycling air that has passed over the engine are calling for an global inquiry into how this affects the health of passengers and crew.

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