An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

MILITARY HEALTH STUDY PUBLISHES CANCER RESEARCH FINDINGS

15 March 2023

From John Marciano

MILITARY HEALTH STUDY PUBLISHES CANCER RESEARCH FINDINGSResearchers Find Deployed Personnel Less Likely to Die from Cancer than Non DeployedSAN DIEGO - The Millennium Cohort Study, the largest and longest running health study in the US military analyzed 661 cancer deaths between 2001 to 2018 among 194,689 service members and veterans. Researchers
MILITARY HEALTH STUDY PUBLISHES CANCER RESEARCH FINDINGS

Researchers Find Deployed Personnel Less Likely to Die from Cancer than Non Deployed



SAN DIEGO - The Millennium Cohort Study, the largest and longest running health study in the US military analyzed 661 cancer deaths between 2001 to 2018 among 194,689 service members and veterans. Researchers found that military personnel who deployed to Southwest Asia had a lower risk of dying from cancer than non-deployed personnel, according to the study led by Dr. Neika Sharifian and researchers from the Naval Health Research Center and the Veterans Affairs (VA) Puget Sound Health Care System.

The researchers compared the risk of cancer death between personnel who deployed and did not experience combat, those who deployed and experienced combat, and those who did not deploy. Non-deployers were 34% more likely to die from cancer compared with deployers who did not experience combat, accounting for smoking and other health behaviors, age, sex, race, ethnicity, and military characteristics. For cancer deaths before the age of 45 years, non-deployers were 80% more likely to die from cancer than deployers who did not experience combat. The risk of cancer death did not differ between deployers who experienced combat compared with those without combat experience. These findings are consistent with the healthy deployer effect where personnel who deploy are considered healthier and more physically fit than those who do not.

The study also found that enlisted personnel were almost three times as likely to die from lung cancer than officers, even after accounting for smoking and other risk factors. This finding may be due to tasks more frequently performed by enlisted personnel that expose them to occupational airborne hazards such as exhausts, emissions, and other respiratory toxicants.

This research is timely given current mandates to examine whether military-related exposures affect cancer risk among service members and veterans, including President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot Program and the newly-enacted PACT Act (Section 500). “While military deployers may experience hazardous exposures that could affect their long-term health, our findings indicate that these service members had a lower overall risk of cancer death than non-deployers. Future cancer research focused on current and former military personnel should account for potential healthy deployer effects,” said Dr. Rudolph Rull, senior author for the study and the Principal Investigator of the Millennium Cohort Study at the Naval Health Research Center.

The Millennium Cohort Study was launched in 2001 to understand the impacts of military service and deployments on the long-term physical health, mental health, and quality of life of service members and veterans. Over the last 20 years, the study has enrolled over 260,000 service members from all six branches of the military and their components and has become the largest and longest-running health study in military history.
The Millennium Cohort Study is headquartered at the Naval Health Research Center (NHRC) in San Diego, California and is sponsored by the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs. Study findings from the past two decades have helped to inform the development of programs and policies focused on improving the health and well-being of military personnel and veterans.

NHRC’s mission is to optimize the operational readiness and health of our armed forces and families by conducting research, development, testing, and evaluation informing DoD policy. NHRC supports military mission readiness with research and development that delivers high-value, high-impact solutions to the health and readiness challenges our military population faces on the battlefield, at sea, on foreign shores and at home. NHRC’s team of distinguished scientists and researchers consists of active-duty service members, federal civil service employees and contractors, whose expertise includes physiology, microbiology, psychology, epidemiology, and biomedical engineering.
Guidance-Card-Icon Dept-Exclusive-Card-Icon