Journal Article

Mortality from Cancer and Other Causes among Airline Cabin Attendants in Germany, 1960–1997

Maria Blettner, Hajo Zeeb, Ingo Langner, Gaël P. Hammer and Thomas Schafft

in American Journal of Epidemiology

Published on behalf of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Volume 156, issue 6, pages 556-565
Published in print September 2002 | ISSN: 0002-9262
Published online September 2002 | e-ISSN: 1476-6256 | DOI:
Mortality from Cancer and Other Causes among Airline Cabin Attendants in Germany, 1960–1997

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Airline cabin attendants are exposed to several potential occupational hazards, including cosmic radiation. Little is known about the mortality pattern and cancer risk of these persons. The authors conducted a historical cohort study among cabin attendants who had been employed by two German airlines in 1953 or later. Mortality follow-up was completed through December 31, 1997. The authors computed standardized mortality ratios (SMRs) for specific causes of death using German population rates. The effect of duration of employment was evaluated with Poisson regression. The cohort included 16,014 women and 4,537 men (approximately 250,000 person-years of follow-up). Among women, the total number of deaths (n = 141) was lower than expected (SMR = 0.79, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.67, 0.94). The SMR for all cancers (n = 44) was 0.79 (95% CI: 0.54, 1.17), and the SMR for breast cancer (n = 19) was 1.28 (95% CI: 0.72, 2.20). The SMR did not increase with duration of employment. Among men, 170 deaths were observed (SMR = 1.10, 95% CI: 0.94, 1.28). The SMR for all cancers (n = 21) was 0.71 (95% CI: 0.41, 1.18). The authors found a high number of deaths from acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (SMR = 40; 95% CI: 28.9, 55.8) and from aircraft accidents among the men. In this cohort, ionizing radiation probably contributed less to the small excess in breast cancer mortality than reproductive risk factors. Occupational causes seem not to contribute strongly to the mortality of airline cabin attendants.

Keywords: aircraft; aviation; cohort studies; mortality; neoplasms; occupational exposure; radiation; Abbreviations: AIDS, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome; CI, confidence interval; SIR, standardized incidence ratio; SMR, standardized mortality ratio.

Journal Article.  6684 words. 

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology

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