May 13, 2013
Agent Orange Exposure Linked To Lethal Prostate Cancer
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Scientists have found a link between lethal forms of prostate cancer and the chemical warfare toxin known as Agent Orange used in the Vietnam War.
Researchers writing in the journal Cancer say they found links between Agent Orange exposure and deadly forms of prostate cancer. The herbicide was used as part of the military offensive during the Vietnam war in an attempt to destroy crops as well as the forest canopies that Viet Cong troops used for cover.
According to a recent report in The Globe and Mail, nearly 400,000 people were killed or maimed by Agent Orange, and 500,000 children have been born with defects as a result from it. However, new research suggests that the Vietnamese are not the only people who are suffering from the aftereffects of dangerous chemical.
The team found that Agent Orange exposure increases the overall risk of prostate cancer by 52 percent, and causes a 75-percent increase in the risk of developing high-grade prostate cancer. Previous studies have suggested that exposure to the chemical increases the risk of developing cancer but have not differentiated the lethality of the various forms.
"This is an important distinction as the majority of prostate cancer cases are non-lethal and thus do not necessarily require detection or therapy. Having a means of specifically detecting life-threatening cancer would improve the effectiveness of screening and treatment of prostate cancer," explained Mark Garzotto, MD, of the Portland Veterans Administration Medical Center and Oregon Health & Science University.
Garzotto and colleagues looked at a group of 2,720 US Veterans who were referred by their healthcare providers for an initial prostate biopsy. He compiled data from biopsy results and clinical information for analysis and found that the cancer was diagnosed in 32.9 percent of Veterans, 16.9 percent of which had high-grade varieties of the disease.
The researchers said their findings indicate that knowing of Agent Orange exposure in the past can provide a means of improving prostate cancer screening for US Veterans and potentially lead to earlier detection.
"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," said Garzotto.
In August of last year, the US government contributed to a project aimed at cleaning up the toxic residue of Agent Orange in Vietnamese forests some 40 years after the conclusion of the war. The project is expected to cost $43 million and take about four years to complete.
“We are both moving earth and taking the first steps to bury the legacies of our past,” US ambassador David Shear said at a ceremony near a former American base in the Vietcong, marked by a rusty barbed-wire fence. “I look forward to even more success to follow.”