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Cancer Health Center

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Another Reason for Flying Phobics to Stay on the Ground


Genes make up chromosomes, which make up the body's DNA -- the blueprint for the human body, which dictates everything from hair color to sensitivity to diseases.

They found an abnormality in chromosome 7 in four of the seven aircrew members, eight of the 19 radiation-exposed leukemia sufferers, but only about 80 of the leukemia sufferers not exposed to radiation. Changes in chromosome 7 are associated with the development of leukemia. This research is published in a letter appearing in the Dec. 23, 2000 issue of the journal The Lancet.

This is a turning point in this area of research because "it has never before been reported that leukemia in aircrew is linked to chromosome changes, in fact the same changes seen in radiotherapy induced leukemia," says Gundestrup.

Brand tells WebMD that his research combined with that of Gundestrup is intriguing and may be relevant to anyone who spends several thousand hours on jets. However, the number of individuals studied in all these investigations has been small, so the link between jet flight and cancer is far from being confirmed. Even if there were a certain connection, he adds, the risk to any individual frequent flyer would be quite small. Brand is now a senior medical epidemiologist at Health Canada in Quebec.

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