Pentagon Study Links Cancer Risk To Pilots, Ground Crews

USAF F-16 jet fighter [REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker/File Photo]

Alexander Pease Contributor
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Recently released research from the Pentagon has linked military pilots and ground crew members to high cancer rates.

The Department of Defense (DOD) study found that within the population of those in the U.S. military who either flew or serviced American aircraft there is a significantly elevated risk of cancer compared to the average American civilian. Data from nearly 900,000 service members who either flew on, operated or worked on U.S. military aircraft between 1992 and 2017 developed the findings of the official DOD research.

Air crew service members who had assignments flying on military aircraft had an 87% higher rate of falling ill with melanoma and a 39% higher rate of getting thyroid cancer particularly according to the report. (RELATED: Ex-Air Force Officer Sentenced To Two Year Prison Term For Involvement In January 6 Riot By Federal Judge)

The Pentagon data went on to illustrate a trend that servicewomen who supported American interests up in the sky in particular had a 16% higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer whereas men in this category had a 16% higher rate of getting prostate cancer. All in all, Americans in air crew assignments had a 24% higher rate of contracting various forms of cancer.

Ground crews reportedly had a 9% higher rate of kidney or renal cancers, a 15% higher rate of thyroid cancer as well as a 19% higher rate of both nervous system and brain cancers. Enlisted female ground crew workers are specifically said to face a 7% higher risk of breast cancer, the study stated.

The research sponsored by the DOD noted the above figures and the outcome of the study generally “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.” External factors the study cited include drinking alcohol, smoking and family genetics.

The release of the study was reportedly long-awaited. Veteran aviators are said to have raised concerns about the instances of elevated cancer rates of air and ground crew service members, according to The Associated Press. Previous Pentagon studies found that cancer risks for the aforementioned air-oriented military personnel were no different than those of the American populace at large, the outlet noted.

Congress commissioned the Pentagon to conduct the study as part of a defense spending bill passed in 2021. (RELATED: Elite Army Parachutist Dies Following Training Jump)

In the years leading up to the study, aviation personnel requested the Pentagon inquire about 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.

Given the significance of the findings— specifically the data showing a considerably larger cancer risk in the sample of military personnel— the DOD has an immediate impetus to initiate a probe of greater magnitude to determine causes and identify variables associated with this widespread medical risk.

The widow of Navy Captain Jim Seaman, Betty Seaman, told The AP her husband would return from deployment serving onboard an aircraft carrier  with gear that “would reek of jet fuel.”

Capt. Seaman was an A-6 Intruder pilot and died in 2018 from lung cancer at the age of 61.

The woman also told the outlet she also recalls crew members talking about how water systems within the Navy vessel would smell like fuel back in the day.

The study also found that aviation crew members were more likely to survive cancer than the rest of the general population despite the heightened risk, thanks to requirements for service members to receive medical checkups on a regular basis in addition to maintaining personal physical fitness standards, the study suggested.