Air Force team visits Malmstrom to begin missileer cancer study

Earlier this month, a team from the Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine visited Malmstrom Air Force Base to begin designing their study of cancer related to missile operations.

In February, Gen. Thomas Bussiere, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, approved a comprehensive study design by the school to conduct a formal assessment related to specific cancer concerns raise by the missile community across related career fields and examine the possibility of of clusters of non-Hodgkin lymphoma at intercontinental ballistic missile bases.

Col. Daniel J. Voorhies, vice commander of the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom, told City Commissioners during their March 7 meeting that the team was on base the week before touring sites to scope their study. He said they’d be back to conduct more of their study.

Voorhies told commissioners that they hadn’t yet identified anything that would be a causal factor, but the cancer clusters prompted the study.

In January, a Space Force officer briefed that nine officers who had been missileers at Malmstrom were diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. His briefing slides were posted to an Air Force enlisted airmen page and spread widely.

The study will have two study teams and be divided into multiple pieces allowing for a better focus on specific needs and prioritization of the study focuses, according to AFGSC.

The two parts include evaluating NHL or multiple cancer sites and will be phases, Col. Tony Woodard, said in a release. Woodard is commander of the Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine.

The first phase is in three parts due to requests from different sources that house potential case identification data, Woodward said, and each is owned by different agencies that will have variable processing times.

The study will look across multiple Air Force job specialty codes, locations and possible additional cancers, according to an AFGSC release.

Phase one will include Department of Defense medical data, analyzed DoD and Department of Veterans Affairs cancer registry data and VA medical data, according to AFGSC Surgeon General Col. Lee Williames.

He said it’s too soon to tell how long the study will take and phase two includes investigating mortality data and evaluating cancer registries.

There are different data sources for the study phases, Williames said in the release, and data will be requested simultaneously but can be analyzed independent of each other.

The second phase will be conducted if the first does not show an elevation in cancer incidence, or occurrence, or mortality risk, Woodard said in the release.

“If, at any point, an elevation in either cancer incidence or in cancer mortality above expected rates is noted, further phase progression will end, leadership will be notified, and the study team will move to the next study,” Woodard said in the release.

Woodard said the team charged with this study is an experienced team that previously completed the USAFSAM’s Fighter Aviator Cancer Study.

“As we move through the various phases of assessment and review, we will continue to provide updates, including pertinent information, as and when such information is discovered or identified,” Bussiere said in a release. “While we continue to work through this process, service members, their family members and former service members who may have concerns or questions are encouraged to speak with their healthcare providers.”

If any airman – past or present, guardian, or family member has a question or concern, they are encouraged to speak to their medical provider or they can submit their question through the AFGSC website or via the Office of the Air Force Surgeon General.