Harvard Flight Attendant Health Study

The Harvard Flight Attendant Health Study is a consortium of researchers dedicated to improving our understanding of Flight Attendant health. The goal of the study is to align resources to bring you information about health, current research, and the opportunity to participate in ongoing studies. Through collaboration, the researchers hope to provide retired, current, and future Flight Attendants a gateway to understand occupationally related health conditions.

These studies both gather vital Flight Attendant health information and also study practices that may improve Flight Attendant health and well-being.

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Published Research

U.S. Flight Attendants at Elevated Risk of Several Forms of Cancer, June 2018

U.S. flight attendants have a higher prevalence of several forms of cancer, including breast cancer, uterine cancer, gastrointestinal cancer, thyroid cancer, and cervical cancer, when compared with the general public, according to new research from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The study, one of the largest and most comprehensive analyses of cancer among cabin crew members conducted to date, is the first to show that Flight Attendants in the U.S. also have a higher rate of non-melanoma skin cancer than the general population. 

The findings suggest that additional efforts should be made in the U.S. to minimize the risk of cancer among Flight Attendants, including monitoring radiation dose and organizing schedules to minimize radiation exposure and circadian rhythm disruption, say the authors.

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Symptoms Related to New Flight Attendant Uniforms, January 2018

Flight attendants at Alaska Airlines reported health symptoms after the introduction of new uniforms in 2011. The airline replaced the uniforms in 2014 without acknowledging harm. To understand possible uniform-related health effects, we analyzed self-reported health symptoms in crew who participated in the Harvard Flight Attendant Health Study between 2007 and 2015, the period before, during, and after the introduction of new uniforms.

The research found the following symptom prevalence (per 100) increased after the introduction of new uniforms: multiple chemical sensitivity (10 vs 5), itchy/irritated skin (25 vs 13), rash/hives (23 vs 13), itchy eyes (24 vs 14), blurred vision (14 vs 6), sinus congestion (28 vs 24), ear pain (15 vs 12), sore throat (9 vs 5), cough (17 vs 7), hoarseness/loss of voice (12 vs 3), and shortness of breath (8 vs 3). The odds of several symptoms significantly increased compared to baseline after adjusting for potential confounders.

Conclusion: This study found a relationship between health complaints and the introduction of new uniforms in this longitudinal occupational cohort. 

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