A new study by the Pentagon has revealed that military pilots and ground crews who fuel, maintain and launch aircraft have a high rate of cancer. The study, which lasted for a year and surveyed nearly 900,000 service members who worked on military aircraft between 1992 and 2017, has shown that both air and ground crew members are at risk of getting sick.
According to the study, air crew members had an 87% higher rate of melanoma and a 39% higher rate of thyroid cancer. Ground crews, on the other hand, had a 19% higher rate of brain and nervous system cancers, among other findings. The study also cautioned that the actual number of cancer cases was likely to be even higher because of gaps in the data, which it said it would work to remedy.
The study also found that crew members diagnosed with cancer were more likely to survive than members of the general population. This was suggested to be due to their regular required medical checkups and better overall health. However, this does not discount the fact that they are still at a higher risk of getting cancer in the first place.
The Pentagon has announced that it will conduct an even bigger review to try to understand why military crews are getting sick and isolate potential causes. Some potential factors include exposure to jet fuels and solvents used to clean and maintain jet parts, sensors, and their power sources in aircraft nose cones, and the massive radar systems on the decks of the ships they land on.
This study highlights the importance of protecting military personnel from harmful exposures to chemicals and other hazards associated with their work. The findings will likely lead to changes in the way that the military approaches the health and safety of its air and ground crews, with a focus on reducing exposure to harmful substances and improving medical surveillance to catch cancers early on.