Flight attendants may be more likely than other professionals to develop several types of cancer including tumours of the breast, uterus, cervix, thyroid and skin, new research suggests. “This study is the first to show higher prevalences of all cancers studied, and significantly higher prevalences of non-melanoma skin cancer compared to a similarly matched US sample population,” said lead study author Eileen McNeely of the Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health in Boston.
Researchers asked 5,366 flight attendants and 2,729 other adults with similar socioeconomic backgrounds whether they had ever been diagnosed with cancer.
Compared to the other adults, flight attendants were 51 per cent more likely to develop breast cancer. They also had more than double the risk of melanoma and more than quadruple the odds of being diagnosed with other forms of skin cancer.
“Non-melanoma skin cancer among women increased with more years on the job, suggesting a work-related association,” McNeely said by email.
While these results confirm earlier research linking work as a flight attendant to an increased risk of certain cancers — especially breast and skin malignancies — the study wasn’t designed to prove whether or how the job might directly cause tumours.