Cancer incidence in California flight attendants (United States)

Peggy Reynolds, James Cone, Michael Layefsky, Debbie E. Goldberg, Susan Hurley

To examine unusual exposure opportunities to flight crews from chemicals, cosmic radiation, and electric and magnetic fields.

This project evaluated the incidence of cancers of the breast and other sites among Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) members residing in California. AFA membership files were matched to California’s statewide cancer registry to identify a total of 129 newly diagnosed invasive cancers among AFA members with California residential histories between 1988 and 1995.

Compared to the general population, female breast cancer incidence was over 30% higher than expected, and malignant melanoma incidence was roughly twice that expected. Both of these are cancers that are associated with higher socioeconomic status and have been suggestively associated with various sources of radiation.

Consistent with the results from Nordic studies of cabin crews and a recent meta-analysis of prior studies, these data suggest that follow-up investigations should focus on the potential relative contribution of workplace exposures and lifestyle characteristics to the higher rates of disease for these two cancers.