Veterans in Congress want answers on incidence of cancer among fighter pilots


(© W. Scott McGill –

A 2019 Air Force study found that fighter pilots have greater environmental exposure to radiation. A pair of military veterans now serving in Congress want more details on what the exposure can mean in terms of root causes and how that exposure translates into health risks for pilots.

“When I joined the Air Force, I knew the risks that came with military service, especially flying in combat missions. What I didn’t realize then was the amount of radiation pilots are exposed to during that service,” said Congressman Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill.. “As cancer rates climb among pilots in the Armed Forces, it’s imperative we get more information on this connection and come up with a resolution without degrading our military strength. I’m proud to introduce legislation with my colleague Rep. Luria as we work to determine these incidences.”

Kinzinger and Congresswoman Elaine Luria, D-Va., have introduced the Military Pilot Cancer Incidence Study Act, H.R. 5858, legislation that would require DOD to enter into an agreement with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to study incidence and mortality rates of pilots from all services.

The study would break down the data by age, gender, type of aircraft flown, and military service to analyze correlations between cockpit radiation exposure and cancer rates. It would also determine the appropriate age to begin screening pilots as young as 30 for different forms of cancer.

“Anecdotal evidence of elevated cancer risks for military pilots is alarming,” Luria said. “I am introducing the Military Pilot Cancer Incidence Study Act, so DOD and the VA understand the scope of the problem, identify service-connected illnesses, and address them appropriately. We owe it to these brave service members to know what health risks they assume and ensure we screen and treat early, so they live longer and healthier lives.”

Story by Chris Graham

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