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Toxicol Ind Health. 2005 Nov;21(10):273-82.

Cancer incidence among male military and civil pilots and flight attendants: an analysis on published data.

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Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health, University of Padua, Italy.


Flight personnel are exposed to cosmic ionizing radiation, chemicals (fuel, jet engine exhausts, cabin air pollutants), electromagnetic fields from cockpit instruments, and disrupted sleep patterns. Only recently has cancer risk among these workers been investigated. With the aim of increasing the precision of risk estimates of cancer incidence, follow-up studies reporting a standardized incidence ratio for cancer among male flight attendants, civil and military pilots were obtained from online databases and analysed. A meta-analysis was performed by applying a random effect model, obtaining a meta-standardized incidence ratio (SIR), and 95% confidence interval (CI). In male cabin attendants, and civil and military pilots, meta-SIRs were 3.42 (CI = 1.94-6.06), 2.18 (1.69-2.80), 1.43 (1.09-1.87) for melanoma; and 7.46 (3.52-15.89), 1.88 (1.23-2.88), 1.80 (1.25-2.58) for other skin cancer, respectively. These tumors share as risk factors, ionizing radiation, recreational sun exposure and socioeconomic status. The meta-SIRs are not adjusted for confounding; the magnitude of risk for melanoma decreased when we corrected for socioeconomic status. In civil pilots, meta-SIR was 1.47 (1.06-2.05) for prostate cancer. Age (civil pilots are older than military pilots and cabin attendants) and disrupted sleep pattern (entailing hyposecretion of melatonin, which has been reported to suppress proliferative effects of androgen on prostate cancer cells) might be involved. In male cabin attendants, meta-SIR was 21.5 (2.25-205.8) for Kaposi's sarcoma and 2.49 (1.03-6.03) for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. AIDS, which was the most frequent single cause of death in this occupational category, likely explains the excess of the latter two tumors.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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