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People who work on USA flight crews have higher rates of certain types of cancer, according to a new study out of Harvard.

United States flight attendants experience higher rates of several types of cancer compared with the general public, according to a study that calls attention to the potential risks of their unique working environment.

Female flight attendants had a higher prevalence of every cancer, especially breast cancer and skin cancer - including melanoma (the deadliest skin cancer) and other non-melanoma types of skin cancers, such as basal cell and squamous cell. This includes cancers of the breast, cervix, skin, thyroid and uterus, as well as gastrointestinal system cancers, which include colon, stomach, esophageal, liver and pancreatic cancers.

But she noted that higher rates of breast cancer among female flight attendants might be due to the fact that they had fewer children and gave birth for the first time later in life than other women. These data were then compared with the data received from a survey done on a group of people not belonging to the airline occupation.

Although these risk factors are known, cabin crews have not previously been included in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration protections that usually help safeguard workers in the U.S. In 2014, some protections were introduced; however, these do not involve the monitoring or regulation of exposure to radiation.

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The risk of breast cancer was higher in women who had never had children, as well as those who had three or more.

Nearly every commercial flight begins with a member of the cabin crew delivering a spiel to passengers about inflight safety.

Already the U.S. flight attendants union released a statement on the study, saying it will "use the results to encourage airlines, airline manufacturers, and regulators to prevent exposures and change working conditions to reduce risk".

It requires airlines to monitor radiation dose (especially for pregnant attendants), organizes schedules to reduce radiation exposure, and informs workers of current studies.

The US, according to the study authors, needs to catch up to the European Union (EU), which employs protections for their flight attendants.

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This was compared to data from 23,729 men and women with similar economic status who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination survey during the same years. What makes cabin crew vulnerable to developing cancer?

Other potential risk factors include sleep-cycle disruption brought on by overnight flights and crossing time-zones, past exposure to secondhand smoke in the cabin and ongoing exposures to chemicals such as pesticides, which are used to sterilize cabins on some worldwide flights.

The Harvard researchers began studying flight attendants' health more than a decade ago, launching the Harvard Flight Attendant Health Study. On average, attendants were 51 years old and had been working in the profession for just over 20 years.

One of those carcinogens is cosmic ionizing radiation, which is elevated at higher altitudes, Mordukhovich told Live Science.

Male caregivers also have a 50% greater risk of skin melanoma (1.2% vs. 0.69% in the general male population) and about 10% increased risk for skin cancer other than melanoma (3.2% versus 2.9%).

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