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Hazards at 10 000 m: studies of aircrew and their importance in understanding cancer risks from cosmic radiation and circadian disruption
  1. Mary K. Schubauer-Berigan
  1. Evidence Synthesis and Classification Section, International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon, France
  1. Correspondence to Dr Mary K. Schubauer-Berigan, Evidence Synthesis and Classification Section, International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon 69372, France; BeriganM{at}

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Aircrew studies have the potential to inform on cancer risks from several occupational exposures: cosmic radiation, electromagnetic frequency radiation (in studies of cockpit crew), and circadian disruption due to night work and rapid transmeridian travel. Six years ago, a commentary1 in this journal queried whether there is more yet to learn about cancer from studies of aircrew cohorts and outlined some possible avenues for research, including the assembly of large cohorts from individual employers, evaluation of cancer types that are not strongly related to reproductive and other behaviours, and measurement of circadian disruption exposure in addition to cosmic radiation. The publication by Dreger and colleagues2 in this issue offers an opportunity to assess progress in understanding cancer risk among aircrew. Dreger and colleagues2 report on cancer mortality in a nearly 27 000-person cohort of cockpit and cabin crew from a large German airline, extending follow-up by 10 years. In this study, they estimated cosmic radiation doses through linkage to a national dose registry (since 2003) and by conducting the more challenging retrospective assessment required to estimate doses for cabin crew before 2003. They compared mortality to the general population of Germany and conducted dose-response assessment within the cohort for certain cancers. As noted for previous follow-up of the same cohort,1 3 4 large deficits in mortality for most …

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  • Contributors The sole author was responsible for conceiving and drafting this article in its entirety.

  • Funding Funding for this work was provided by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

  • Disclaimer Where authors are identified as personnel of the International Agency for Research on Cancer/WHO, the authors alone are responsible for the views expressed in this article and they do not necessarily represent the decisions, policy or views of the International Agency for Research on Cancer/WHO.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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