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Pentagon study finds higher cancer rates in military pilots, ground crews

However, cancer mortality rates are 56% lower for aircrew and 35% lower for ground crew members when compared to the general population.

Published: March 19, 2023 9:34am

Updated: March 19, 2023 3:39pm

A massive Pentagon study found that military pilots and ground crews have higher rates of cancer than the general U.S. population.

The study published Sunday by The Associated Press focused on nearly 900,000 service members who worked on military aircraft between 1992 to 2017. It found that compared to demographically similar members of the general population, aircrew members had an 87% higher rate of melanoma, 39% higher rate of thyroid cancer, 16% higher rate of prostate cancer and a 24% higher rate of all types of cancer.

Ground crews also had higher rates of cancer, being 19% more likely to develop brain and nervous system cancers, 15% more likely to have thyroid cancer and 3% more likely to have all types of cancer.

However, cancer mortality rates are 56% lower for aircrew and 35% lower for ground crew members when compared to the general population.

The lower mortality rates may be due to the fact that service members are healthier than the general population due to the fitness requirements they must meet, the study said. Additionally, aircrew members may be required to pass even more rigorous fitness standards to be able to fly. Another possible explanation is that service members undergo routine medical screenings while in the military, meaning that some types of cancers can be detected earlier.

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