Mortality from cancer and other causes among airline cabin attendants in Europe: a collaborative cohort study in eight countries

Am J Epidemiol. 2003 Jul 1;158(1):35-46. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwg107.


There is concern about the health effects of exposure to cosmic radiation during air travel. To study the potential health effects of this and occupational exposures, the authors investigated mortality patterns among more than 44,000 airline cabin crew members in Europe. A cohort study was performed in eight European countries, yielding approximately 655,000 person-years of follow-up. Observed numbers of deaths were compared with expected numbers based on national mortality rates. Among female cabin crew, overall mortality (standardized mortality ratio (SMR) = 0.80, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.73, 0.88) and all-cancer mortality (SMR = 0.78, 95% CI: 0.66, 0.95) were slightly reduced, while breast cancer mortality was slightly but nonsignificantly increased (SMR = 1.11, 95% CI: 0.82, 1.48). In contrast, overall mortality (SMR = 1.09, 95% CI: 1.00, 1.18) and mortality from skin cancer (for malignant melanoma, SMR = 1.93, 95% CI: 0.70, 4.44) among male cabin crew were somewhat increased. The authors noted excess mortality from aircraft accidents and from acquired immunodeficiency syndrome in males. Among airline cabin crew in Europe, there was no increase in mortality that could be attributed to cosmic radiation or other occupational exposures to any substantial extent. The risk of skin cancer among male crew members requires further attention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aircraft
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cosmic Radiation / adverse effects
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology
  • Occupational Diseases / mortality*
  • Occupational Exposure / prevention & control