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 March 20, 2023

New study finds link between military pilots and increased rates of cancer

A newly-released study from the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has found increased cancer rates among military pilots as well as ground crew members. 

The study can be found in its entirety here.

It is called "Phase 1-a Study on the Incidence of Cancer Diagnosis and Mortality among Military Aviators and Aviation Support Personnel."

The study, according to the Daily Caller, was prompted by requests from aviation personnel to the Pentagon to determine the "medical risks from the chemicals within substances they are exposed to such as jet fuel and cleaning solvents for aircraft and jet parts, embedded sensors, radar sensors aboard the air-craft carriers jets land on and take off from and more."

Phase 1-a study, which lasted about one year, involved 156,050 aircrew members and 737,891 ground crew members. The majority of these individuals were either in the Air Force or the Navy, and they either flew or worked on military aircraft between the years 1992 and 2017.

The DOD's study found:

Compared to a demographically similar U.S. population in SEER, aircrew had an 87 percent higher rate of melanoma, 39 percent higher rate of thyroid cancer, 16 percent higher rate of prostate cancer, and a 24 percent higher rate of cancer for all sites combined.

The numbers were also elevated, although not as dramatically, for ground crew members.

The study found:

Ground crew members had higher rates of cancers of brain and nervous system (by 19 percent), thyroid (by 15 percent), melanoma (by 9 percent), kidney and renal pelvis (by 9 percent), and of all sites combined (by 3 percent) compared to the demographically similar U.S. population in SEER

Despite these figures, the DOD warned against drawing the conclusion that being a military member who flies or works on military aircraft causes cancer.

The DOD says that the study "does not imply that military service in aircrew or ground crew occupations causes cancer because there are multiple potential confounding factors that could not be controlled for in this analysis."

Some of these "confounding factors," according to the DOD, include family genetics, smoking, and drinking alcohol.

An interesting finding in all of this is that the individuals studied were more likely to survive cancer than members of the general population.

The study found:

Aircrew had a 56 percent lower mortality rate for all cancer sites when compared to the demographically similar U.S. population, and ground crew had a 35 percent lower mortality rate.

It appears that this study will not be the end of the inquiry. The DOD's report states:

A Phase 2 study is required to investigate and identify the specific occupational and environmental risk factors associated with the increased risk of the cancers identified in the Phase 1 study.

Written By:
Oliver Winters

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