Flight attendants exposed to greater risk of cancers
Flight attendants exposed to greater risk of cancers
27 June, 2018, 05:24
The flight-crew rate was 0.15% compared with 0.13% for uterine cancer; 1.0% compared with 0.70% for cervical cancer; 0.47% compared with 0.27% for stomach or colon cancer; and 0.67% compared with 0.56% for thyroid cancer.
Overall, 3.4 percent of female attendants had been diagnosed with breast cancer, versus 2.3 percent of other USA women.
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 Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health research was one of the largest and most comprehensive studies of cancer among the group to date.
The FAHS included more than 5,300 flight attendants who were recruited through online and mailed surveys, and given in person at airports.
Flight attendants are more often exposed to probable carcinogens in the cabin environment including cosmic ionizing radiation at flight altitude. "This is striking given the low rates of overweight and smoking in this occupational group".
Some 3.4 percent of the women who flew for a living had breast cancer, compared to 2.3 per cent in the general population. They've always been aware their occupation may be linked to increased cancer risks.
The association also noted that the United States federal government now does not require airlines to educate cabin crews about onboard radiation exposure, or to offer additional protections from radiation-including for pregnant flight attendants.
They may also experience circadian-rhythm disruption caused by irregular work schedules and time-zone shifts.
This study surveyed more than 5,300 flight attendants (80% were female), and compared them to around 2,700 people who had similar income and educational status but worked on the ground, as part of the Harvard Flight Attendant Health Study.
(Other radiation workers have certain occupational safety regulations in place to protect them from exposure and restrict risky exposure.) The European Union regulates flight attendant schedules and flying time of pregnant flight attendants to limit potentially unsafe exposures.
Air cabin crews receive the highest yearly dose of ionizing radiation on the job of all US workers, she added.
Previous research by scientists in Iceland suggested stewardesses were up to five times more likely to contract breast cancer.
One of the most unusual risks is cosmic ionizing radiation (radiation from outer space that penetrates airplanes). And the risk of melanoma rose three times for cabin crew of both sexes.
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"The specific pattern we are seeing is firstly lung injury - the lung's breathing mechanism is fine, but there are problems getting the oxygen out of the air", said Dr Heutelbeck, adding that there are also a common pattern of symptoms related with neurotoxicity and small fibre nerve damage. The study did not examine the health impact of frequent flying among airline passengers.
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