Thursday, April 10, 2014

Agent Orange and Skin Cancer

By Tiffany Liang

During the Vietnam War, US military personnel were instructed to spray Agent Orange, a deadly cocktail of 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D herbicides contaminated with dioxin, a potent carcinogen. The purpose of this spraying was to defoliate the jungles in Vietnam and presumably make the war easier to fight, though Agent Orange exposure occurred on military bases outside the war zone, such as South Korea and Guam.

Since then, many Vietnam veterans have come down with diseases such as cancer, Parkinson’s, diabetes, etc. Some have been unable to have children, or their children are born with mental and/or physical defects. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs has endeavored to compensate such veterans, and the list of diseases linked with Agent Orange has expanded considerably since it was first issued decades ago.

Now, another possible linkage has been established. According to a recent article in HealthDay News, veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War may have an increased risk of developing skin cancer. Between August 2009 and January 2010, researchers analyzed the medical records of 100 men, though only men with lighter skin types were included in the study. Incidences of skin cancer were higher especially amongst men who sprayed Agent Orange.

The study also discovered that “Forty-three percent of the study participants had a skin condition called chloracne, which is caused by exposure to dioxins, the investigators found. In this group of men, the rate of non-melanoma invasive skin cancer was more than 80 percent.” Incidences of non-melanoma invasive skin cancer were therefore higher in the veterans than for the general populace by a statistically significant amount, though rates of malignant melanoma, the most deadly type of skin cancer, were no higher than for the rest of their demographic.

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