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Why Flight Attendants Are More Prone to Cancer Than the General Population

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

flight attendants radiation exposure

Story at-a-glance -

  • While previous research has found flight attendants have higher rates of breast cancer and melanoma, recent research expands that list, finding the same trend for non-melanoma, uterine, cervical, gastrointestinal and thyroid cancers as well
  • Compared to the general population, female cabin crew report 1.5 times higher rates of breast cancer, over twice the melanoma and four times the rate of non-melanoma skin cancer
  • Breast cancer rates are also higher among flight attendants with multiple children, which is surprising as childbirth and breastfeeding lower a woman’s risk of breast cancer
  • Explanations for the elevated cancer risk among flight attendants include circadian rhythm disruptions due to irregular work schedules, exposure to carcinogens such as pesticides, fire retardant chemicals and jet fuel, and exposure to high levels of cosmic ionizing radiation
  • I describe an inexpensive supplemental strategy to radically lower the damage from exposure to gamma radiation by commercial flying

While many professions have health risks, some have a particularly high risk for cancer. Female firefighters aged 40 to 50 are six times more likely to develop breast cancer than the national average, for example, thanks to the high levels of dioxins and furans firefighters are exposed to when flame-retardant chemicals burn.

Shift workers are also at high risk for cancer due to disrupted circadian rhythms and inhibited melatonin production. In fact, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a research arm of the World Health Organization, classified shift work as a probable human carcinogen in 2007. Another high-risk group is flight attendants, who have higher rates of cancer than the general population, and that includes every cancer examined.

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