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Flight Attendants Have Higher Cancer Rates, Study Finds

Flight attendants have higher rates for several kinds of cancers than the general population, according to a new study.

Uterine, cervical, thyroid, breast, gastrointestinal, and non-melanoma skin cancers were all found to be more prevalent in flight attendants, according to an article published Monday in the journal Environmental Health. Flight attendants contend with a number of job-related exposures, including to known carcinogens such as jet fuel and flame retardant chemicals, according to the study and further reporting by CNN.

Study co-author Irina Mordukhovich notes little research has been done on frequent fliers, which could theoretically have similar health concerns. The study does not explain why flight attendants have higher cancer rates.

Eighty percent of the study participants were female, which makes sense given the profession is still over 75% female-dominated.

Despite their visibility to air travelers, flight attendants are an “understudied occupational group,” according to the study’s authors. They noted their interest in studying flight attendants took off as they considered that in an overlooked profession, there may be a lack of or gaps in on-the-job policies protecting workers.

The researchers also suggested further inquiry into the health impacts of in-flight work. “Future longitudinal studies should evaluate associations between specific exposures and cancers among cabin crew,” they wrote.