Cancer incidence in airline and military pilots in Sweden 1961-1996

Aviat Space Environ Med. 2002 Jan;73(1):2-7.


Background: Aircraft pilots are exposed to several agents that may be associated with an increased risk of cancer. Previous studies regarding cancer incidence and mortality in aircraft pilots have not shown a consistent pattern. The aim of this study was to describe the cancer incidence in male Swedish airline and military pilots considering flight hours and aircraft type.

Hypothesis: Aircraft pilots have an increased risk of certain types of cancer.

Methods: Male aircraft pilots with the Swedish Scandinavian Airline System (SAS) (n = 1,490) and military pilots and navigators in the Swedish Air Force (n = 2,808) employed during 1957-1994 were studied regarding cancer incidence during 1961-1996 using the Swedish National Cancer Register. The cancer incidence was compared with that of the general male Swedish population.

Results: The standardized incidence ratio (SIR) for cancer overall was 1.00 (95% CI 0.80-1.22) for airline pilots, 0.97 (95% CI 0.83-1.10) for military pilots and 0.98 (95% CI 0.87-1.09) for all pilots. Airline pilots had an increased incidence of malignant melanoma of the skin (SIR 2.54) and military pilots of other skin cancer (SIR 2.10). For airline pilots with > 10,000 block hours or high-altitude long-distance duty results were similar concerning cancer overall and skin cancers.

Conclusions: Swedish pilots had an overall cancer incidence similar to the male general population. An increased incidence of malignant melanoma in airline pilots and of other skin cancer in military pilots could be associated with exposure to UV radiation either at work or outside work.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aerospace Medicine*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Military Personnel*
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Sweden / epidemiology