Mortality among US commercial pilots and navigators

J Occup Environ Med. 1998 Nov;40(11):980-5. doi: 10.1097/00043764-199811000-00008.


The airline industry may be an occupational setting with specific health risks. Two environmental agents to which flight crews are known to be exposed are cosmic radiation and magnetic fields generated by the aircraft's electrical system. Other factors to be considered are circadian disruption and conditions specific to air travel, such as noise, vibration, mild hypoxia, reduced atmospheric pressure, low humidity, and air quality. This study investigated mortality among US commercial pilots and navigators, using proportional mortality ratios for cancer and noncancer end points. Proportional cancer mortality ratios and mortality odds ratios were also calculated for comparison to the proportional mortality ratios for cancer causes of death. Results indicated that US pilots and navigators have experienced significantly increased mortality due to cancer of the kidney and renal pelvis, motor neuron disease, and external causes. In addition, increased mortality due to prostate cancer, brain cancer, colon cancer, and cancer of the lip, buccal cavity, and pharynx was suggested. Mortality was significantly decreased for 11 causes. To determine if these health outcomes are related to occupational exposures, it will be necessary to quantify each exposure separately, to study the potential synergy of effects, and to couple this information with disease data on an individual basis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aerospace Medicine / statistics & numerical data
  • Aged
  • Cause of Death
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality / trends
  • Occupational Diseases / mortality*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology