Flight attendants face higher risk of contracting breast cancer: Hospital

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Flight attendants are at a higher risk of breast cancer due to being exposed to high levels of radiation, Wan Fang Hospital announced yesterday.

Chen Jung-pang, the chief of Wan Fang's Radiology Division, said that according to several international studies conducted in the past decade, high doses of radiation and more frequent cases of endocrine disorder caused by traveling across time zones both increase the risk of long-term flight attendants contracting breast cancer.

Other doctors who treat breast cancer have pointed out, however, that there are other factors that increase the likelihood of contracting breast cancer, including irregular sleeping patterns, heredity and advanced paternal age.

Chen cited international research as showing that flight attendants are exposed to 0.2 to 9.1 sieverts of radiation annually. The rate of contracting breast cancer among flight attendants who have been exposed to radiation for over five years is double that of ground crew.

Taipei City Hospital Dr. Chen Huo-mu said that high levels of radiation change the human body's DNA, and that endocrine disorder can cause hormone imbalance. Long-term hormone imbalance raises the chance of breast cancer, he said.

A doctor in Wan Fang Hospital's Radiology Division, Yao Min-su, said that according to the Ionizing Radiation Protection Act, people should not be exposed to more than 1 sievert of radiation annually.

Yao said, however, that those who take planes often will receive higher levels of radiation as their elevation gives them less atmospheric protection. People who come in contact with high levels of radiation through their work - such as staff at nuclear power plants - should receive health checks regularly, Yao suggested.

Dr. Chiu Chan-tang from Taiwan Adventist Hospital said that the number of breast cancer patients has been increasing dramatically in recent years.