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New Study Links Agent Orange with Deadly Forms of Prostate Cancer

May 13, 2013

Exposure to Agent Orange has now been linked by a new study to deadly forms of prostate cancer among U.S. military veterans.

Agent Orange, a chemical spray heavily used during the Vietnam War era to clear away jungle foliage, tended to be contaminated with dioxin, which is considered to be a chemical with strong potential for causing cancer.

As we’ve reported, during the Vietnam War, millions of gallons of Agent Orange were dispersed onto the vegetation and trees in the region, and many American troops were exposed to the toxic chemical’s harmful effects.

However, the effects of being exposed to Agent Orange can take many years to develop and become apparent; at the same time, some veterans may just be developing symptoms of diseases connected with the chemical exposure.

While previous research proposed that exposure to Agent Orange increased the risk of prostate cancer, it wasn't known if it specifically increased the risk of more dangerous forms of the disease, according to a U.S. News & World Report article on the new study.

Researchers looked at more than 2,700 U.S. veterans who had undergone a prostate biopsy. Prostate cancer was diagnosed in 33% of the veterans, including 17% who had a high-grade version, according to the study, published online May 13 in the journal Cancer.

Exposure to Agent Orange was linked to a 52% increase in overall prostate cancer risk, a 75% increase in the risk of high-grade prostate cancer, and a more-than-doubled risk of the deadliest forms of the disease, U.S. News reported.

The ability to quantify a veteran’s exposure to Agent Orange can help to identify those who may be at increased risk for prostate cancer, which in turn can mean early detection and then quicker treatment, the findings suggest, Dr. Mark Garzotto, of the Portland Veterans Administration Medical Center and Oregon Health & Science University, and colleagues, told U.S. News.

"It also should raise awareness about potential harms of chemical contaminants in biologic agents used in warfare and the risks associated with waste handling and other chemical processes that generate dioxin or dioxin-related compounds," Garzotto was quoted as saying in the U.S. News report.

As we’ve reported, Vietnam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange may be eligible for disability benefits, even if the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) previously denied their claim. Thanks to a series of court decisions in the Nehmer class action lawsuit, veterans diagnosed with prostate cancer or a host of other listed ailments – including ischemic heart disease, Parkinson’s disease and chronic lymphotic leukemia – as well as their survivors may have the ability, as Nehmer class members, to reopen previously denied claims.

Veterans who served in Vietnam between 1962 and 1975 and/or Korea from Sept. 1, 1967, to Aug. 31, 1971, are believed to have been exposed to Agent Orange. If these veterans develop one of the various conditions, including prostate cancer, and the VA recognizes the ailment as being associated with Agent Orange, then the veterans or their survivors may be eligible for service-connected disability benefits.

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