Intended for healthcare professionals


Incidence of cancer among Finnish airline cabin attendants, 1967-92

BMJ 1995; 311 doi: (Published 09 September 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;311:649
  1. Eero Pukkala, researchera,
  2. Anssi Auvinen, senior scientistb,
  3. Gunilla Wahlberg, service chiefc
  1. a Finnish Cancer Registry, Liisankatu 21 B, FIN-00170 Helsinki, Finland
  2. b Finnish Centre for Radiation Nuclear Safety, PO Box 14, FIN-00881 Helsinki
  3. c Finnish Flight Attendants Association, Rautatielaisenkatu 6, FIN-00520 Helsinki
  1. Correspondence to: Dr Pukkala.
  • Accepted 26 June 1995


Objective: To assess whether occupational exposure among commercial airline cabin attendants are associated with risk of cancer.

Design: Record linkage study.

Setting: Finland.

Subjects: 1577 female and 187 male cabin attendants who had worked for the Finnish airline companies.

Main outcome measure: Standardised incidence ratio; expected number of cases based on national cancer incidences.

Results: A significant excess of breast cancer (standardised incidence ratio 1.87 (95% confidence interval 1.15 to 2.23)) and bone cancer (15.10 (1.82 to 54.40)) was found among female workers. The risk of breast cancer was most prominent 15 years after recruitment. Risks of leukaemia (3.57 (0.43 to 12.9)) and skin melanoma (2.11 (0.43 to 6.15) were not significantly raised. Among men, one lymphoma and one Kaposi's sarcoma were found (expected number of cases 1.6).

Conclusions: Although the lifestyle of cabin attendants is different from that of the reference population—for example, in terms of social status and parity—concentration of the excess risks to primary sites sensitive to radiation suggests that ionising radiation during flights may add to the cancer risk of all flight personnel. Otherwise the lifestyle of cabin attendants did not seem to affect their risks of cancer. Estimates of the effect of reproductive risk factors only partly explained the


  • Funding None.

  • Conflict of interest None.

  • Accepted 26 June 1995
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