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New study shows higher cancers rates for military pilots and ground crews

A year long study looked at about a million service members between 1992 and 2017 and found those who flew or worked on the aircraft had a higher cancer rate.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Higher cancer rates are being found in military pilots and ground crews according to a study created by the Pentagon.

“This has been a known problem for decades and so I'm a bit surprise that it’s taken the Pentagon this long to acknowledge this issue," said Sean Cronin, an aviation law attorney and a retired Navy pilot.

Cronin worked at Naval Air Station Jacksonville as a Naval Aviation Safety Officer. His job was to track and maintain the chemical exposure of individuals.  

“It’s well known in the military communities that aviation personnel are exposed to a lot of chemicals that are known carcinogens. So this idea that now they are going back to look to see what carcinogens they are exposed to is a bit disingenuous," said Cronin. 

The Pentagon study shows that compared to the U.S. population after adjusting for age, sex, and race air crew 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 cancer for all sites.

Ground crew members had a 19% higher rate of brain and nervous system cancers, 15% higher rate of thyroid cancer, 9% higher rate of melanoma and kidney cancers and 3% higher rate of cancer for all sites.

“We try to limit the exposures to the chemicals as much as possible, but there are exposures that you just can’t prevent," said Cronin. "Particularly in a naval aircraft carrier environment. The chemicals are everywhere, the jet fuel is everywhere and the fumes are everywhere so there are some risks associated with all of this."

The report says the number of cancer cases could likely be higher due to the gaps in the data, but they're currently working to fill those gaps.

The Pentagon is also working on bigger study to try and figure out the reason to why the crews are getting sick.

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