The Air Force is launching a sweeping cancer study after several officers assigned to a missile unit in Montana were diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of cancer that forms in the body’s lymph system.
The assessment will not be limited to one particular base, but it comes after symptoms of NHL were detected in at least nine officers at Malmstrom Air Force Base, one of three that operate the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile.
Gen. Thomas A. Bussiere, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, approved the study, which will be designed and carried out by the Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine.
“This [study] is all bases, all ranks, all [Air Force jobs] — the entire spectrum, to include the environments,” he said in a town hall meeting last month.
The assessment will look at potential risks and exposures, Air Force officials said.
The cluster of cancer cases has drawn concern from lawmakers in Washington. Sen. Jon Tester, Montana Democrat, said he was alarmed that former missile crews at Malmstrom Air Force Base are experiencing a cancer rate nearly 100 times greater than the national average for new cases.
“Additionally, these active duty members are well below the median age of 67 for a Non-Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosis,” he wrote in a recent letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
The Pentagon must determine whether the increased rate of cancer is unique to those who served at Malmstrom or if missile crews at other Air Force bases are suffering from a similarly increased risk of cancer or other medical conditions, Mr. Tester wrote.
Air Force officials said they didn’t know how long the assessment will take. Phase one will include analyzing Defense Department and Veterans Affairs Department medical data. Phase two will involve evaluating cancer registries and mortality data.
The medical team assigned to conduct the missile crew cancer test previously completed a similar study aimed at Air Force fighter pilots.
• Mike Glenn can be reached at email@example.com.
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