Airline crews at greater risk of cancer says study

Cancer Risk Rises for Flight Attendants Especially Among Women

Consistent with previous studies, we report a higher lifetime prevalence of breast, melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers among flight crew relative to 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".

A flight attendant's life may look glamorous, but the job comes with health hazards that go beyond managing surly passengers.

In a study published Monday in the journal Environmental Health, researchers at Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that flight attendants were more likely to have cancer than the general population. Generally, with the number of babies a woman reproduces, her risk of acquiring breast cancer reduces.

As reported in the journal Environmental Health, study leader Eileen McNeely and team analysed a survey involving 5,366 U.S. flight attendants that was conducted between 2014 and 2015.

Which cancer risks are increased in flight attendants?

Compared to the other adults, flight attendants were 51 percent more likely to develop breast cancer.

"This may be due to combined sources of circadian rhythm disruption - sleep deprivation and irregular schedules - both at home and at work".

Flight crew have higher rates of specific cancers than the general population, according to a study in the open access journal Environmental Health involving 5,366 USA flight attendants.

The authors recommend that further efforts be made in the United States to limit cancer risk among this work population such as radiation dose monitoring and the implementation of schedules that will lower exposure to radiation and prevent the disruption of circadian rhythms.

The Harvard University scientists behind the work came to their conclusion by examining data from more than 5,300 US-based flight attendants who filled out an online survey between December 2014 and June 2015 as part of the larger "Harvard Flight Attendant Health Study". As found in the study, the types of cancer that are most commonly observed in flight attendants are- uterine cancer, gastrointestinal cancer, cervical cancer, breast cancer, thyroid cancer, and skin cancer.

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

They compared the self-reported cancer diagnoses with figures on a matching cohort of 2,729 men and women with similar economic status collected as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination survey during the same years.

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

Long-haul trips which disrupt the body clock and affect hormone levels are additional risks.

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%). Dr Heutelbeck revealed she has treated around 500 patients in three and a half years.

What about customers who are frequent fliers?

Some 3.4 percent of the women who flew for a living had breast cancer, compared to 2.3 percent in the general population. A large majority, 91 per cent of participants, were or had been cabin crew.

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