Flying is inherently dangerous. Now we learn there is more risk in military flying and supporting armed forces aviation than maintaining the skills necessary to keep aircraft in the air or engaging an enemy in aerial combat. As a result, the health of the warfighters and the resulting readiness of the force are of concern. A recent Department of Defense (DOD) study reported that certain cancers are more prevalent in military aircrews and support personnel than in the general population. The Pentagon analysis is Phase 1 of an investigation called Study on the Incidence of Cancer Diagnosis and Mortality Among Military Aviators and Aviation Support Personnel. Congress mandated the study be undertaken in the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act.
Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Gilbert Cisneros Jr. provided the assessment with a cover letter to the chairmen of the appropriate congressional oversight committees. Cisneros pointed out when the data were adjusted for age, sex, and race, aircrew and ground crew members exhibited a significantly higher rate for certain cancers. The study developed its findings using the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program database. SEER, a medical research effort of the National Cancer Institute, “is an authoritative source of information on cancer incidence and survival in the United States. SEER currently collects and publishes cancer incidence and survival data from the population-based cancer registries covering approximately 48.0% of the US population,” according to the National Health Institute.
Statistical data from SEER was compared with medical data from the Defense Department’s cancer registry system Oncolog managed by the Defense Health Agency’s Joint Pathology Center. “Oncolog includes cancer data reported by military medical treatment facilities on all DOD beneficiaries,” according to the study. This population includes active duty, retired, Reserve, and National Guard personnel diagnosed with cancer while serving on active duty. In addition, study subject aircrew and ground support crew members were identified using the numerical codes assigned to specific military occupations.
Interesting Results on Cancer Mortality
The sampling was 156,050 aircrew and 737,891 ground support personnel, both US Air Force and Navy. More Air Force aircrew personnel (70.6%) than Navy (21.1%) were included. The ground crew distribution was still heavy on the Air Force side, at 47.8%, while the Navy number was 38.3%. Results from the study showed a higher incidence of several cancers compared to the general population:
“This study found that compared to the US population after adjusting for age, sex, and race, 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. Ground crew members had higher incidence 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 (by 3 percent).”
As disturbing as the higher percentages of cancer in air and ground crews are, the deaths from these various malignancies were shown to be lower than in the general population. “This study did not find a higher cancer mortality rate among aircrew or ground crew compared to the US population. In contrast, the mortality rate for malignancies of all sites was significantly lower in aircrew (by 56 percent) and ground crew (by 35 percent).”
“The military aviators had raised alarms for years about the number of air and ground crew members they knew who had cancer. They were told earlier military studies had found they were not at greater risk than the general US population,” Maureen Mackey reported for Fox News. With the recent study, what aircrew members suspected has been validated. A key strength of the research and its conclusions was the magnitude of the work. “This is one of the largest and most comprehensive studies of military aircrew and ground crew cancer risks to date,” the research authors explained. However, the Cisneros cover letter pointed out that the DOD data set before 1990 had gaps, leading to possible underreported cancer diagnoses. Furthermore, the researchers did not suggest a cause for the difference in cancer incidences between military air and ground crew personnel and the general population.
Nonetheless, now there is evidence to support the belief some cancers appear more often in military air and ground personnel. This should prompt equally in-depth inquiries into why that is the case and what steps must be taken to address the risk. Ultimately, it’s about military readiness and taking care of our warfighters.
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.
All opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Liberty Nation.
Do you have an opinion about this article? We’d love to hear it! If you send your comments to [email protected], we might even publish your edited remarks in our new feature, LN Readers Speak Out. Remember to include the title of the article along with your name, city, and state.
Please respect our republishing guidelines. Republication permission does not equal site endorsement. Click here
Liberty Nation Today:
Debt Ceiling Deal Might Not Stop Credit Downgrade – Swamponomics - America's credit rating, paying more for less, and Fed's balance sheet. - Watch Now!
2024 Presidential Election – The World’s Grandest Reality TV Experiment - Is extremism the key to votes? - Read Now!
Just for Fun Vol. 34 – C5 TV - Presidential Trivia is back! - Watch Now!
Liberty Lampoon - Cartoonist Tom Stiglich will make your day. - Read Now!
The First Lady Factor in the GOP - Intelligent, beautiful, and stylish GOP women are critical in getting their candidate elected. - Read Now!