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Monday, 15 June 2009

What are the health risks for cabin crew?

Basically, there are three types of health risks associated with in- flight exposure to cosmic radiation:
1. Cancer;
2. Genetic damage that might get passed on to a future baby (by men and women); and
3. Damage to the fetus, once conceived.

The following description of these risk estimates is based on materials published by the FAA.Scientists
have estimated the health risks by reviewing available health data for people (or cells or animals) who
have been exposed to similar types of radiation as crewmembers, but at higher levels. Scientists use this
information to estimate the health risks associated with exposure to the lower levels of radiation that
crewmembers are exposed to. Remember that these are only estimates and that the comparison groups and
models are imperfect. In each case, the estimated increase in risk will be smaller for crewmembers who
fly fewer hours each year (or fewer years) or who fly at lower latitudes and altitudes (such as short-haul
domestic flights). Likewise, the risk will be higher for crewmembers who fly more hours or years with
more intense exposures that result from flying at higher altitudes or latitudes and/or during solar radiation
About 20% of the ge neral population in the US dies (or can expect to die) of cancer related to smoking,
chemicals, ground-based radiation, bad genes, or other known or unknown factors. Long-term exposure to
cosmic radiation can elevate this risk. For example, the FAA estimates that for a crewmember who flies
900 hours a year for 30 years on flights between the US and Europe, the excess risk of radiation-induced
fatal cancer can be as high as 1%. That means that the risk of dying from cancer (in general) might go up
from 20% to almost 21%. Another way to look at it is that of every 100 such crewmembers, one can
expect to die of radiation-induced cancer. An excess of the following cancers has been observed among
crewmembers in health studies over the past 10 years: cancers of the skin (malignant melanoma), female
breast, prostate, bone, bladder, colon/rectum, and brain. Radiation has been cited as one potential cause,
along with electromagnetic fields, chronic fatigue and jet lag, and other known and unknown factors.
In November 2000, researchers at the California Department of Public Health released the results of a
study on cancer rates among flight attendants. They searched the California (CA) cancer registry for the
names of CA-based AFA-CWA members who were diagnosed with cancer between 1988-95. For a
comparison group, they chose people in the general population in CA (who were similar to the AFA-CWA
members in terms of age and gender) and counted how many of them were diagnosed with cancer during
that same time period.
The proportion of flight attendants diagnosed with all types of cancers combined was no different than the
proportion of people in the general population. However, the rate of breast cancer among the women flight
Association of Flight Attendants -CWA, AFL-CIO Page 4
attendants was approximately 30% higher than among people in the general population, and the rate of
malignant melanoma among flight attendants was approximately two times higher. The fact that a
disproportionate number of these two particular cancers were diagnosed among the flight attendants
suggests that the risk factor(s) could be job-related. Although the reason for these increased rates is not
fully understood, the researchers did offer some possible explanations. For example, both breast cancer
and malignant melanoma have been associated with radiation exposure. Breast cancer and malignant
melanoma have also both been associated with the disruption of circadian rhythms from crossing time
zones. Finally, both cancers are associated with higher socioeconomic status. Socioeconomic status can be
an indicator of "lifestyle factors" like sun exposure and diet.
Since then, more research papers have been published on the subject. A study of flight attendants in eight
European countries reported a slight but non-significant increase in breast cancer deaths among female
cabin crew and elevated skin cancer deaths among male cabin crew (Zeeb et. al., 2003). An Icelandic
study reported a significant increase in the risk of breast cancer among female cabin crew who had
worked five years or more (Rafnsson et. al., 2003). This Icelandic study is especially important because it
controlled for age at first childbirth and duration of employment after the introduction of higher- flying jet
aircraft in 1971, concluding that "an association between length of employment and risk of breast cancer,
adjusted for reproductive factors, indicates that occupational factors may be an important cause of breast
cancer among cabin attendants." Finally, a Swedish study reported an increase of malignant melanoma
among male and female cabin crew (Linnersjo et. al., 2003).

Above taken from ashsd.afacwa.org

BTW Chief Steward Barry Loo was the latest victim of cancer.He died 2 weeks ago at age 52.Barry was a diver,footballer,golfer and in short a very fit man who does not smoke and yet succumb to cancer at a relatively young age.

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