The largest study of the relationship between military aviation and cancer to date concluded that incidences of certain cancers are more prevalent among fighter pilots than their military colleagues and the overall population.
Conducted by the Air Force Research Laboratory’s 711th Human Performance Wing, the study traced cancer-related illnesses and deaths among the service’s fighter aviators who served between 1970 and 2004.
“U.S. Air Force fighter aviators [during the years the study entailed] … had similar outcomes as their fellow officers, with the exception of greater incidence of melanoma skin and prostate cancers, and a suggestive association with non-Hodgkin lymphoma,” the report stated. “These are the same three cancers – the only three cancers – for which the standardized incidence and mortality ratios were statistically elevated.”
The researchers determined that air frames – such as that of the F-100 Super Sabre – probably had more to do with cancer occurrences than fighter aviation itself. They also noted that exposure to galactic cosmic radiation probably did not contribute to contracting cancer, “but other sources of ionizing radiation have not been exonerated.”