A flight attendant’s life may look glamorous, but the job comes with health hazards that go beyond managing surly passengers. As a group, they get certain cancers more than the general population, according to a new study.
Scientists have long found that flight attendants get more breast cancer and melanoma. The new study, published Monday in the journal Environmental Health, saw the same trend and detected a higher prevalence of every other cancer the researchers examined: Non-melanoma skin cancer, uterine, gastrointestinal, cervical and thyroid cancers were all seen at a higher rate in flight attendants.
“Something that somewhat surprised us, to some extent, was that we also saw a higher instance of breast cancer in women with three or more children,” said study co-author Irina Mordukhovich, a research associate at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Typically, the more children a woman has, the lower her risk of breast cancer. A previous study showed a result similar to the new breast cancer finding, she said, but Mordukhovich didn’t expect those findings would be replicated.
“Women with three or more children are already probably not getting enough sleep,” Mordukhovich said. “Combine that with this disruption from the job, especially for those who fly internationally, this may be an indication that the circadian rhythm disruption is having an impact.”
Disruptions in circadian rhythm — a person’s daily sleep-wake cycle — are linked to an increased cancer risk, studies have shown.