Other potential risk factors include sleep-cycle disruption brought on by overnight flights and crossing time-zones, past exposure to secondhand smoke in the cabin and ongoing exposures to chemicals such as pesticides, which are used to sterilize cabins on some worldwide flights.
Taking age into account, the study found a higher prevalence of cancer in flight crew for every type of cancer examined.
Among female flight attendants, the rate of breast cancer was 50% higher when compared to the general population. They are, for example, less likely to smoke or be overweight, and have lower rates of heart disease.
Compared to the other adults, flight attendants were 51 percent more likely to develop breast cancer.
The risk of breast cancer was higher in women who had never had children, as well as those who had three or more.
This study surveyed more than 5,300 flight attendants (80% were female), and compared them to around 2,700 people who had similar income and educational status but worked on the ground, as part of the Harvard Flight Attendant Health Study.
Not having children is a known risk factor for the disease in women, but the researchers were surprised to see increased rates in those with multiple kids.
USA flight attendants may be more likely than other Americans to develop several types of cancer including tumors of the breast, uterus, cervix, thyroid, and skin, new research suggests. This type of radiation is particularly damaging to DNA and is a known cause of breast cancer and nonmelanoma skin cancer, she said.
The findings suggest that additional efforts should be made to minimize the risk of cancer among flight attendants, including monitoring radiation dose and organising schedules to minimize radiation exposure and circadian rhythm disruption, the researchers suggested.
"Our findings raise the question of what can be done to minimize the adverse exposures and cancers common among cabin crew".
In the new study, the researchers looked at data from more than 5,300 flight attendants from different airlines who completed an online survey as part of the Harvard Flight Attendant Health Study.
The amount of time in the air clearly matters; working for five years as a flight attendant increased the risk of non-melanoma skin cancers, but was not significantly associated with breast cancer or melanoma skin cancers.
British experts have estimated airline crews receive a higher dose of radiation over a year than workers in the nuclear industry.
Air cabin crews receive the highest yearly dose of ionizing radiation on the job of all USA workers, she added. And the risk of melanoma rose three times for cabin crew of both sexes.
In all, 5,366 attendants working on domestic and global flights in the U.S. were examined.
"The specific pattern we are seeing is firstly lung injury - the lung's breathing mechanism is fine, but there are problems getting the oxygen out of the air", said Dr Heutelbeck, adding that there are also a common pattern of symptoms related with neurotoxicity and small fibre nerve damage.
Dr Heutelbeck has also been treating passengers who are frequent flyers as well.
The study cannot say that being a flight attendant "causes" cancer; it can only make an observation that they seem linked.