Pentagon study revealed high cancer rates in military pilots and ground crews

According to the report, the risk of air service members contracting melanoma is 87% higher than that of the general population.

Recent Pentagon research found that military pilots and ground personnel who maintain or launch aircraft have higher cancer rates than the rest of the nation's population.

The Pentagon found that aircrew members were 24% more likely to get cancer of any kind than other U.S. citizens. One of the greatest risks is that of contracting melanoma, as the percentage for these crew members is 87% higher than for the general population. The rate of thyroid cancer is also significantly higher for aircrew members (39%).

The study also found that the risk rate of breast cancer in female aircrew is 16% higher than that of average citizens, the same percentage risk that male workers have of contracting prostate cancer.

The possibility of ground personnel of contracting cancer of any kind was 3% higher than the rest of U.S. citizens. For the ground crew, it was revealed that they were 19% more likely to get nervous system cancer or brain cancer, 15% more likely to get thyroid cancer and 9% more likely than the rest of the population to get liver or kidney cancer. In addition, female ground-based personnel had a 7% higher rate of breast cancer.

The study was conducted over one year on nearly 900,000 service members who served by flying, operating, and working on U.S. Army aircraft between 1992 and 2017.

The Pentagon indicated that this was one of the largest and most comprehensive studies done to date and the results were obtained after screening the general U.S. population and selecting them by age, sex and race. However, he cautioned that the number of actual cancer cases is likely to be higher due to some gaps in the data, so a more thorough review is now needed to find out why service members are getting sick.

A group of aircrew members and their families lobbied Congress and the Pentagon for some years to investigate the various cancers to which airmen and ground personnel were exposed.

Betty Seaman, widow of Navy Captain Jim Seaman who died at 61 of lung cancer, recounted that when her husband returned home from a deployment aboard an aircraft carrier his gear reeked of jet fuel and revealed that the smell still remains.

The aircrew members themselves have long requested that the Pentagon conduct studies on the environmental factors to which they are exposed, such as the solvents used to clean and maintain aircraft parts, the sensors and power sources in aircraft cones, the radar system on the decks of the ships they land on, and the fuel used.