A recent study shows that flight attendants are at a higher risk of getting breast, uterine, skin, gastrointestinal, cervical, and thyroid cancers above the general population.
Compared to another study that found women who had three or more children had a reduced risk of breast cancer, the opposite was true for female flight attendants that have here or more children. Besides the fact that women who have at least three children are not getting enough sleep, the additional disturbance from the job may be an indication that disruption to their daily sleep-wake cycle has an impact on the increased risk for developing cancer.
The study does not answer why flight attendants are at a higher risk for these cancers. However, they are often exposed to carcinogens like pesticides, fire retardants, jet fuel, engine exhaust, and other chemicals more frequently than the general population. They are also exposed to higher levels of cosmic ionizing radiation, which according to the World Health Organization is a cancer risk.
Are frequent flyers at risk?
Although the study does not address this question, logic would suggest that frequent flyers would be exposed to the same risks as flight attendants. NASA is currently working on studying high-altitude radiation to help improve monitoring for the aviation industries workers and passengers.