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Cancer incidence in airline cabin crew: experience from Sweden
  1. A Linnersjö1,
  2. N Hammar2,
  3. B-G Dammström3,
  4. M Johansson3,
  5. H Eliasch4
  1. 1Department of Epidemiology, Stockholm Center of Public Health, Stockholm, Sweden
  2. 2Department of Epidemiology, Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, and Department of Epidemiology, Stockholm Center of Public Health, Stockholm, Sweden
  3. 3Swedish SAS, Stockholm, Sweden
  4. 4Flight Medical Center, Swedish Air Force, and Swedish SAS, Stockholm, Sweden
  1. Correspondence to:
 A Linnersjö
 Department of Epidemiology, Norrbacka, 171 76 Stockholm, Sweden; anette.linnersjo{at}


Aims: To determine the cancer incidence in Swedish cabin crew.

Methods: Cancer incidence of cabin crew at the Swedish Scandinavian Airline System (SAS) (2324 women and 632 men) employed from 1957 to 1994 was determined during 1961–96 from the Swedish National Cancer Register. The cancer incidence in cabin crew was compared with that of the general Swedish population by comparing observed and expected number of cases through standardised incidence ratios (SIR). A nested case-control study was performed, including cancer cases diagnosed after 1979 and four controls per case matched by gender, age, and calendar year.

Results: The SIR for cancer overall was 1.01 (95% CI 0.78 to 1.24) for women and 1.16 (95% CI 0.76 to 1.55) for men. Both men and women had an increased incidence of malignant melanoma of the skin (SIR 2.18 and 3.66 respectively) and men of non-melanoma skin cancer (SIR 4.42). Female cabin attendants had a non-significant increase of breast cancer (SIR 1.30; 95% CI 0.85 to 1.74). No clear associations were found between length of employment or cumulative block hours and cancer incidence.

Conclusions: Swedish cabin crew had an overall cancer incidence similar to that of the general population. An increased incidence of malignant melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer may be associated with exposure to UV radiation, either at work or outside work. An increased risk of breast cancer in female cabin crew is consistent with our results and may in part be due to differences in reproductive history.

  • UV radiation
  • cabin crew
  • cancer incidence
  • cosmic radiation

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