Female flyers risk getting skin and breast cancer

March 1, 2006

A meta-analysis of the literature indicates that female flight attendants have a higher risk of certain cancers than the general public.

A meta-analysis of the literature indicates that female flight attendants have a higher risk of certain cancers than the general public.

Flight attendants are routinely exposed to cosmic ionizing radiation while traveling at high altitudes. Researchers from the University of Padua in Italy analyzed seven follow-up studies reporting standardized incidence ratio for cancer among female flight attendants obtained from online databases (J Womens Health 2006;15[1]:98-105).

The meta-analysis showed a significant excess of melanoma and breast carcinoma and a slight but not significant excess of cancer incidence across types.

While calling for further studies to clarify the role of occupational exposure, the researchers suggested that airlines estimate radiation dose, organize crew member schedules to reduce further exposure in highly exposed flight attendants, inform crew members about health risks, and give special protection to pregnant women.