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Agent Orange Link to Lethal Prostate Cancer Spawns Recommendations

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Agent Orange Linked to High Grade Prostate Cancer in U.S. Veterans

Veterans exposed to Agent Orange during the Viet Nam war are known to be at higher risk for prostate cancer. A VA study identifies the contaminant dioxin in the chemical substance as a risk factor linked to lethal forms of the disease.

The finding is important for screening Veterans for the disease, study author Mark Garzotto, MD, of the Portland Veterans Administration Medical Center and Oregon Health & Science University said in a press release.

The VA study looked at 2,720 US Veterans to find the link between Agent Orange and aggressive or high-grade prostate cancer.

Dr. Garzotto and Nathan Ansbaugh, MPH compiled clinical data and prostate biopsy results for analysis, finding a 52 percent increase risk of prostate cancer among Veterans exposed to the chemical warfare agent.

Exposure to Agent Orange which is an herbicide did not increase risk of low-grade prostate cancer.

But the investigation found a 75 percent higher chance of high-grade or more aggressive forms of the disease and double the likelihood of lethal prostate cancer.

Among the men studied, 32.9 percent developed prostate cancer and 16.9 percent had high-grade disease, meaning cancer is more likely to spread to other parts of the body.

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Most types of prostate cancer are non-aggressive and often don’t require detection or treatment that can have untoward side effects for men.

The study authors say the finding makes it important for U. S. Veterans exposed to Agent Orange to be screened for the disease for early detection and treatment.

Dr. Garzotto said the finding also makes it important to be aware of “… 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.”

According to the World Health Organization, dioxins are dangerous to human health because they store in fat tissue and persist for long periods of time.

The most toxic form of the compound is 2,3,7,8- tetrachlorodibenzo para dioxin (TCDD). Dioxin compounds can also be ingested. Most human exposure to dioxins is through the food supply from meat and dairy products, fish and shellfish.

Screening U.S. Veterans for exposure to Agent Orange is recommended by the study authors so men can decide about prostate cancer screening options that usually start with PSA testing and biopsy, if a man's risk is considered high; especially if there are any symptoms present. Signs of the disease might not always occur , but might include frequent urination at night, burning or pain when urinating, weak flow of urine or pain in the lower back, hips or upper thigh.

Cancer journal

Prostate Cancer Foundation

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