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Update to epidemiological study about the history of DMG and DIPG at Cannon

  • Published
  • By Col. Brent Greer, 27th SOW Deputy Wing Commander
  • 27th Special Operations Wing

In September of 2022, the leadership team of the 27th Special Operations Wing was made aware of concerns regarding the occurrence of a rare type of pediatric brain cancer called Diffuse Midline Glioma/Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DMG/DIPG) at Cannon Air Force Base. As a result, the Epidemiology Consult Service at the United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine (USAFSAM) began an assessment of DMG/DIPG occurrences at Cannon AFB in January 2023. This epidemiological study aims to research the history of DMG and DIPG at Cannon and determine if there is a cluster of pediatric cancer at higher rates than the national average.​

Because DMG and DIPG are extremely rare, the study was expanded to analyze rates of all types of pediatric brain cancer. The team is currently still collecting and reviewing data regarding the cases of pediatric brain cancer from Cannon AFB, the surrounding regional area, other Active Duty Department of the Air Force locations, and the civilian population. While we wait for the study to conclude, we wanted to provide you all with an update with information we do have.  

As part of the study, USAFSAM has consulted leading experts on DMG and DIPG in the United States, specifically the Brain Tumor Center at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Additionally, they have consulted the New Mexico Department of Health to gather rates of pediatric cancer in the regional area surrounding Cannon AFB.

Previously conducted research and leading experts in the field tell us that the underlying cause of DMG/DIPG is unknown at this time. There are no known environmental exposures (chemical or radiation) or inherited genetic variations that have been validated to increase the risk of developing DMG/DIPG. 

There have been three cases of DMG and DIPG at Cannon AFB since 2010. Since 2010, there was an 8 year period where there were zero cases.

Up to this point, USAFSAM's study has found that of the DMG/DIPG cases that were diagnosed when the patient’s sponsor was assigned to Cannon AFB, no parallels have been found in factors like sponsor occupation or time on station before diagnosis.

To complete USAFSAM’s research, they are waiting for additional data from the civilian community to be able to comprehensively assess and compare rates with the civilian population. We expect to have the data by the end of 2023.

Our team, which includes the 27th SOW, the New Mexico Department of Health, Air Force Special Operations Command Surgeon General, and USAFSAM, will update the findings once the additional data is available.

Your concerns are our concerns. We appreciate your patience as we continue gathering and assessing data to provide you the most complete information we can. Our number one priority is the health and safety of our Air Commandos and their families, and we take the responsibility to investigate these risks to health very seriously. Our hearts continue to be with the families who have lost loved ones to DMG/DIPG cancer or are currently facing childhood cancer of any kind.