WASHINGTON — Military pilots and support personnel are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer than the general U.S. population, according to a recent Pentagon report.
The report, “Study on the Incidence of Cancer Diagnosis and Mortality Among Military Aviators and Aviation Support Personnel,” examined whether there are higher incidences of cancer among military air and ground crews when compared to the general population. The study analyzed data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results program of the National Cancer Institute.
The Pentagon’s report found that military aircrew members, specifically, had higher rates of melanoma (87 percent higher), thyroid cancer (39 percent), prostate cancer (16 percent) and cancer for all sites (24 percent), compared to the U.S. population after adjusting for age, sex and race.
Ground crew members, meanwhile, had higher incidence of cancers of brain and nervous system (19 percent higher), thyroid (15 percent), melanoma (9 percent), kidney and renal pelvis (9 percent) and of all sites (3 percent).
Cancer mortality rates, however, were lower among military aircrew or ground crew when compared to the U.S. population, according to the Pentagon.
“In contrast, the mortality rate for malignant cancer of all sites was significantly lower in aircrew (by 56 percent) and ground crew (by 35 percent),” the report stated.
The Pentagon also noted these findings do “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,” the report stated.
There are also gaps in this military cancer case data, the report notes, citing the inability to identify complete data on cancer diagnoses prior to 1990. The report’s findings, therefore, cannot be generalized to military aircrew or ground crew members who served prior to 1990 due to incomplete data on cancer diagnoses prior to 1990.
The Pentagon, taking this report’s findings into account, will conduct Phase 2 of this study in an effort to identify the toxins, radiation or hazard materials associated with military flight operations, as well as dates of service, types of aircraft flown, specific duties and more.
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