New research from Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health suggests that flight attendants are at a higher risk than the general public for several forms cancer. To gather data, the Harvard Flight Attendant Health Study surveyed U.S.-based flight attendants and compared the results to non-flying groups of similar ages and genders. The study also looked at the relationship between how long an individual had worked as a flight attendant and the rate of cancer diagnoses.
According to researchers, they observed “a higher prevalence of every cancer we examined, especially breast cancer, melanoma, and non-melanoma skin cancer among females.” They also found that “job tenure was positively related to non-melanoma skin cancer among females, with borderline associations for melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers among males.”
The study identifies flight attendants as a “highly understudied cohort that is consistently exposed to several known and probable carcinogens in the cabin environment [including] cosmic ionizing radiation at flight altitude, Circadian rhythm disruption due to night shift work, irregular schedules and frequently crossing time zones, and poor cabin air quality from a number of sources.” The study, which was published on Tuesday in Environmental Health, also noted that similar research has generally implied an association between working in the air and increased cancer risk as well.