According to a new study conducted by a team of researchers, flight attendants are more prone to developing certain types of cancers in comparison to the normal population. 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 co-author of the study, Irina Mordukhovich at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said in a statement, “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.” Generally, with the number of babies a woman reproduces, her risk of acquiring breast cancer reduces. However, this fact was not found to hold good in the case of flight attendants. Mordukhovich explained, “Women with three or more children are already probably not getting enough sleep. 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.”
As a part of this study, the Harvard Flight Attendant Health Study (FAHS) took near about fifty-three hundred flight attendants as subjects. These flight attendants then answered the questions related to their flight routines and possible cancer diagnoses. These data were then compared with the data received from a survey done on a group of people not belonging to the airline occupation. The comparison indicated a higher risk of various types of cancers in flight attendants than the people who did not belong to that profession.
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. The flight attendants get more frequently exposed to carcinogens such as jet fuel, fire retardants, and pesticides in comparison to others. They even get exposed to increased levels of “cosmic ionizing radiation,” which according to the World Health Organization, triggers the risk of developing cancer.
All the observations made in this new study were published in the Environmental Health journal on Monday 25th June.