Agent Orange: A Red Alert for Aggressive Prostate Cancer

U.S. veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam have a much higher risk for developing aggressive forms of prostate cancer, finds a new study. One vet and cancer survivor tells his story.
By Jeffrey Kopman, Everyday Health Staff Writer

MONDAY, May 13, 2013 — U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War ended in 1973, but the effects of nearly two decades of chemical warfare are still being felt by American veterans today.
Exposure to the dangerous herbicide Agent Orange in Vietnam has been linked to a 52 percent overall increased risk of prostate cancer in Vietnam vets, according to an analysis published in the American Cancer Society journal Cancer. The researchers concluded that there was no increased risk for low-grade prostate cancer from Agent Orange, but there was a 75 percent increase in the risk of high-grade prostate cancer.

For some Vietnam veterans, like Terry Dillon of Columbus, Ohio, exposure to Agent Orange was not taken into account during their prostate cancer diagnosis.

“No doctors, and I’ve seen quite a few, ever asked me about my exposure to Agent Orange,” said Dillon, a 40-year member of the military who spent one year in Vietnam at the Nha Trang Air Base.

That base carried out Operation Ranch Hand, in which nearly 20 million gallons of Agent Orange was sprayed over Vietnam crops, in an effort to damage the Vietnamese ability to farm food. This is what led to Dillon’s exposure to Agent Orange.

“We got exposed to it differently than other Army guys. When the aircraft would come back it was usually shot up with small arms ammunition, which left holes in the aircraft and the tanks with Agent Orange in them,” Dillon explained. “The tanks leaked inside of the aircraft, and it was several inches deep. Nobody at that time thought there was any kind of problem with it.”

But in 2008, Dillon, a testicular cancer survivor, was diagnosed with prostate cancer believed to be the result of Agent Orange exposure.

“Prostate cancer in veterans from my era is one of the indications of Agent Orange exposure. The (U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs) won’t come out and say ‘absolutely that is linked to Agent Orange,' but it basically is," he believes.
 

 

 

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