As I write this “Clinical Corner” one day prior to the 79th anniversary of D-Day, it is appropriate to remember not only the ultimate sacrifices of our military personnel in all prior conflicts, but to highlight also the cancer-related associations reported in those who have served. One such recent report underscores some of these associations.
New data released by the US Department of Defense show that the incidence of many types of cancer is higher among military pilots and aviation support personnel in comparison with the general population. Military aircrew and ground crew were overall more likely to be diagnosed with cancer, but less likely to die from cancer compared to the US population.
The study involved 156,050 aircrew and 737,891 ground crew. Participants were followed between 1992 and 2017. Both groups were predominantly male and non-Hispanic. Data on cancer incidence and mortality for these two groups were compared with data from groups of similar age in the general population through use of the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Database of the National Cancer Institute.
For aircrew, the study found an 87% higher rate of melanoma, a 39% higher rate of thyroid cancer, a 16% higher rate of prostate cancer, and a 24% higher rate of cancer for all sites combined. In contrast to the increase in cancer incidence, the report found a decrease in cancer mortality.
This information, gleaned from cancer registries, will lead to important prevention and screening strategies in this important at risk population.