Cancer among Flight Attendants and crew members

breast cancer

Risk factors for breast cancer, including occupational exposures

Elisabete Weiderpass, Margrethe Meo, and Harri Vainio

3/02/2011

The knowledge on the etiology of breast cancer has advanced substantially in recent years, and several etiological factors are now firmly established. However, very few new discoveries have been made in relation to occupational risk factors. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has evaluated over 900 different exposures or agents to-date to determine whether they are carcinogenic to humans. These evaluations are published as a series of Monographs (www.iarc.fr). For breast cancer the following substances have been classified as “carcinogenic to humans” (Group 1): alcoholic beverages, exposure to diethylstilbestrol, estrogen-progestogen contraceptives, estrogen-progestogen hormone replacement therapy and exposure to X-radiation and gamma-radiation (in special populations such as atomic bomb survivors, medical patients, and in-utero exposure). Ethylene oxide is also classified as a Group 1 carcinogen, although the evidence for carcinogenicity in epidemiologic studies, and specifically for the human breast, is limited. The classification “probably carcinogenic to humans” (Group 2A) includes estrogen hormone replacement therapy, tobacco smoking, and shift work involving circadian disruption, including work as a flight attendant. If the association between shift work and breast cancer, the most common female cancer, is confirmed, shift work could become the leading cause of occupational cancer in women.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3431884/pdf/shaw-2-1.pdf

Welcome to the FA Health Blog

The self-reported health of U.S. flight attendants compared to the general population

Eileen McNeely1*, Sara Gale1,2, Ira Tager2, Laurel Kincl3, Julie Bradley1, Brent Coull1 and Steve Hecker

3/10/2014

publications
Abstract
Background:
Few studies have examined the broad health effects of occupational exposures in flight attendants apart from disease-specific morbidity and mortality studies. We describe the health status of flight attendants and compare it to the U.S. population. In addition, we explore whether the prevalence of major health conditions in flight attendants is associated with length of exposure to the aircraft environment using job tenure as a proxy.
Methods:
We surveyed flight attendants from two domestic U.S. airlines in 2007 and compared the prevalence of their health conditions to contemporaneous cohorts in the National Health and Nutrition Survey (NHANES), 2005-2006 and 2007-2008. We weighted the prevalence of flight attendant conditions to match the age distribution in the NHANES and compared the two populations stratified by gender using the Standardized Prevalence Ratio (SPR). For leading health conditions in flight attendants, we analyzed the association between job tenure and health outcomes in logistic regression models.Results:
Compared to the NHANES population (n =5,713), flight attendants (n = 4,011) had about a 3-fold increase in the age-adjusted prevalence of chronic bronchitis despite considerably lower levels of smoking. In addition, the prevalence of cardiac disease in female flight attendants was 3.5 times greater than the general population while their prevalence of hypertension and being overweight was significantly lower. Flight attendants reported 2 to 5.7 times more sleep disorders, depression, and fatigue, than the general population. Female flight attendants reported 34% more reproductive cancers. Health conditions that increased with longer job tenure as a flight attendant were chronic bronchitis, heart disease in females, skin cancer, hearing loss, depression and anxiety, even after adjusting for age, gender, body mass index (BMI), education, and smoking.Conclusions:
This study found higher rates of specific diseases in flight attendants than the general population. Longer tenure appears to explain some of the higher disease prevalence. Conclusions are limited by the cross-sectional design and recall bias. Further study is needed to determine the source of risk and to elucidate specific exposure-disease relationships over time.

 

Cancer prevalence among flight attendants compared to the general population

Eileen McNeely, Irina Mordukhovich, Steven Staffa, Samuel Tideman, Sara Gale and Brent Coull

publications
Abstract
Background:
Flight attendants at Alaska Airlines reported health symptoms after the introduction of new uniforms in 2011. The airline replaced the uniforms in 2014 without acknowledging harm. To understand possible uniform-related health effects, we analyzed self-reported health symptoms in crew who participated in the Harvard Flight Attendant Health Study between 2007 and 2015, the period before, during, and after the introduction of new uniforms.
Methods:
We calculated a standardized prevalence of respiratory, dermatological and allergic symptoms at baseline, as well as during and after uniform changes in 684 flight attendants with a varying number of surveys completed across each time point. We used Generalized Estimating Equations (GEE) to model the association between symptoms at baseline versus the exposure period after adjusting for age, gender and smoking status and weighting respondents for the likelihood of attrition over the course of the study period.

Results:
We found the following symptom prevalence (per 100) increased after the introduction of new uniforms: multiple chemical sensitivity (10 vs 5), itchy/irritated skin (25 vs 13), rash/hives (23 vs 13), itchy eyes (24 vs 14), blurred vision (14 vs 6), sinus congestion (28 vs 24), ear pain (15 vs 12), sore throat (9 vs 5), cough (17 vs 7), hoarseness/loss of voice (12 vs 3), and shortness of breath (8 vs 3). The odds of several symptoms significantly increased compared to baseline after adjusting for potential confounders.

Conclusions:
This study found a relationship between health complaints and the introduction of new uniforms in this longitudinal occupational cohort

 

Cancer incidence in California flight attendants (United States)

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

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

Methods:
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.

Results:
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.

Conclusions:
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.

 

fa health

Cancer incidence in airline cabin crew

Cancer incidence in airline cabin crew
E A Whelan

Evidence that flight crew are at increased risk for certain types of cancer is growing although epidemiological evidence remains inconclusive.

Download the article: Cancer and Flight Crews – Whelan

Conclusion: The evidence that flight crew are at increased risk for certain types of cancer is growing and current concerns about
potential hazards in this occupation are not without basis. However, thus far, the epidemiological evidence remains inconclusive due to limitations in exposure assessment, sample size, and characterization of confounders. The studies from the European Union and the USA will move us further towards understanding the nature of the risks involved for workers in this unique occupation.

Occup Environ Med 2003;60:805–806