Air Force fighter pilots, crews have extremely higher chances of getting certain cancers


Fighter pilots are at higher risk for certain kinds of cancers, according to a study by the US Air Force Research Laboratory.

The 711th Human Performance Wing’s 2021 research study, dubbed “Cancer Incidence and mortality among fighter aviators,” sampled every airman who had more than 100 flight hours in an Air Force fighter aircraft from 1970 to 2004.

When the study was concluded, it was revealed that 34,679 fighter crewmembers were 29 percent more likely to be diagnosed with testicular cancer, 24 percent more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma, and 23 percent more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer when compared to non-fighter personnel. 

“Current and former fighter aviators are encouraged to discuss this report with their flight surgeon or primary care provider, including such topics as ultraviolet radiation protection and its impact on vitamin D, lifestyle approaches to cancer prevention, and screening for melanoma skin and prostate cancers,” said Maj. Brian Huggins, a preventive medicine consultant with the 711th Wing. 

One vintage airframe in particular, the F-100 Super Sabre, was particularly deadly to fly long-term.

“Male fighter aviators who flew the F-100 had greater odds of being diagnosed and dying from colon and rectum cancer, pancreas cancer, melanoma skin cancer, prostate cancer, and brain cancer. They also had greater odds of being diagnosed and dying from thyroid cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, despite similar odds of diagnosis,” the study found.

According to Defense One, other Vietnam-era airframes such as the F-105 and F-4 also saw high cancer rates.

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