Nine military officers who'd worked decades ago at a nuclear missile base in Montana have been diagnosed with blood cancer, and there are "indications" the disease may be linked to their service, according to military briefing slides obtained by the AP. One of the officers has died. All of the officers, known as missileers, were assigned as many as 25 years ago to Malmstrom Air Force Base, home to a vast field of 150 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile silos. The nine officers were diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, according to a January briefing by US Space Force Lt. Col. Daniel Sebeck.
Missileers ride caged elevators deep underground into a small operations bunker encased in a thick wall of concrete and steel. They remain there sometimes for days, ready to turn the launch keys if ordered to by the president. "There are indications of a possible association between cancer and missile combat crew service at Malmstrom AFB," Sebeck said in slides presented to his Space Force unit this month. The "disproportionate number of missileers presenting with cancer, specifically lymphoma" was concerning, he said. Sebeck declined to comment when contacted by email by the AP on Saturday, saying the slides were "predecisional."
In the slides, he said the issue was important to the Space Force because as many as 455 former missileers are now serving as Space Force officers, including at least four of the nine identified in the slides. In a statement, Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said that "senior leaders are aware of the concerns raised about the possible association of cancer related to missile combat crew members at Malmstrom AFB." Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which according to the American Cancer Society affects an estimated 19 out of every 100,000 people in the US annually, is a blood cancer that uses the body's infection-fighting lymph system to spread.
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