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‘Cancerous Missiles’: US Soldiers Working At Nuclear Missile Silos Report Cases Of Blood Cancer

The US military is investigating unusual blood cancer cases in officers who once worked in nuclear missile silos at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana. 

The Washington Post, in its report, cited an unofficial, crowdsourced document written by a Space Force officer, who discovered 30 cancer cases connected to personnel who served at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana over 50 years. 

According to figures collected last month, fourteen people had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and four passed away. 

The Washington Post highlighted the story of Mark Holmes, a former Air Force major, who passed away in 2020 at the age of 37 due to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and had no idea that other members of his base had also been diagnosed with the same disease.

An increasing number of “missileers” — military members responsible for operating the country’s nuclear missile launch control centers — have now disclosed that they were diagnosed with cancer, and many have lymphoma. 

Missile launch facility - Wikipedia
Missile launch facility – Wikipedia

In a letter dated January 11, an Air Force lieutenant colonel stated that Holmes’ cancer was spurred on by the countless hours he spent in the underground missile shelters at Malmstrom.

The letter suggested that radon exposure and various other chemicals in the 1960s-era silos may have contributed to Holmes’ cancer.

Air Force Global Strike Command commander Thomas A Bussiere announced that the Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine had opened a formal investigation into the cases. Additionally, a congressional investigation has started. 

The Associated Press was the first to report on the revelation of the first nine cancer cases. According to the AP article, one of the nine missileers with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma passed away. 

Cancer Linked To Nuclear Base Work?

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society states that non-lymphoma Hodgkin’s is a blood cancer that originates in a person’s lymph nodes or lymphatic tissue found in many organs.

There are now concerns regarding the health of other missileers who worked at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota and FE Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, which had almost comparable missile installations.

The Air Force surgeon general and other medical specialists in the branch received a military briefing explaining the worries of missileers to gather more information, according to Air Force spokesperson Ann Stefanek.

When questioned about the cancer instances among the soldiers who worked at the missile centers, the Air Force official responded, “We are heartbroken for all who have lost loved ones or are currently facing cancer of any kind.” 

Malmstrom Air Force Base told Insider that it is aware of the situation but did not have any additional details. Malmstrom is located in central Montana and is home to the 341st Missile Wing. 

(Senior Airman Daniel Brosam/US Air Force)

It is one of three locations used by the Air Force to maintain and run the nation’s silo-based Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles. Over 3,300 active-duty military personnel and 600 civilians make up the 341st Missile Wing.

Comparatively, just approximately 400 of the 3,300 soldiers stationed at Malmstrom at any given time are tasked with serving as either missileers or support for those operators.

About 19 out of every 100,000 Americans are diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma yearly. Thus, the fact that there have been nine cancer cases out of only hundreds of former missileers is alarming. 

Additionally, non-Hodgkin lymphoma is typically diagnosed in people in their 60s. Most military officers were diagnosed in their 30s and 40s and began working at the base in their 20s.

It is not the first time soldiers working at Malmstrom have expressed health problems.

After 14 incidences of cancer were reported among the base’s missileers in 2001, an Air Force health unit looked into it. According to the report that came after it, the base was safe, and “sometimes illnesses tend to occur by chance alone.”

The new cancer concern comes when the United States military is more open about the health hazards soldiers face while serving. 

For instance, President Joe Biden signed legislation last August to provide more health services to former soldiers who may have been exposed to hazardous substances in smoke.

A new law provision said that soldiers with health problems would be provided with care without needing documentation that their illness was caused by their time in the military.

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