Monday 20 March 2023

Higher rates of cancer found in military pilots, ground crew members: Study

 A recent Pentagon study found higher cancer rates among military pilots and ground crew members that fuel, maintain, and launch aircraft.

A yearlong study released by the Pentagon in February examined cancer rates among 900,000 service members who either piloted or worked on aircraft between 1992 and 2017.

According to the Associated Press, the study was launched following concerns raised by retired military aviators who noticed that a significant number of air and ground crew members had developed cancer, despite previous studies that found service members were not at a greater risk than the general population.

In the 2021 defense bill, Congress required the Pentagon to perform a comprehensive study.

The Pentagon's shocking new study found that aircrew members had an 87% higher rate of melanoma and a 39% higher rate of thyroid cancer. It also revealed that men had a 16% higher rate of prostate cancer and women had a 16% higher rate of breast cancer.

According to the study, ground crew members were found to have a 19% higher rate of brain and nervous system cancers, a 15% higher rate of thyroid cancer, and a 9% higher rate of kidney or renal cancers. It also discovered that women had a 7% higher rate of breast cancer.

The study determined that, overall, aircrew members had a 24% higher rate of cancer of all types, while ground crew members had a 3% higher rate.

According to the Pentagon, air and ground crews showed lower lung cancer rates. In addition, aircrew members were also found to have lowers rates of bladder and colon cancers.

While the study compared the data to the general population and adjusted for age, sex, and race, the Pentagon noted that the number of cancer cases was likely higher given gaps in data. Additionally, the study did not include former crew members who developed cancer after leaving the military medical system.

Given the study's results, the Pentagon must now conduct a more extensive review to determine the potential causes of the higher cancer rates. The 2021 defense bill requires the department to identify "the carcinogenic toxicants or hazardous materials associated with military flight operations" and the type of aircraft and locations where diagnosed crew members served.

Aviation crews have speculated that exposure to jet fuels, jet cleaning solvents, sensors, power sources in aircraft nose cones, and radar systems might have contributed to higher cancer rates.

The study "does not imply that military service in air crew or ground crew occupations causes cancer, because there are multiple potential confounding factors that could not be controlled for in this analysis," the Pentagon said, citing family medical histories, smoking, and alcohol use.

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