RAO Davao City

United States Military Retiree Activities Office Davao City, Philippines

AO & PROSTRATE CANCER UPDATE August 15, 2008

Posted by Service Officer on August 14th, 2008

Veterans exposed to the herbicide Agent Orange are twice as likely to get prostate cancer as other veterans, UC Davis researchers found in a study published online by the journal Cancer. Prostate cancer in those men also comes on earlier and is more aggressive, said Dr. Karim Chaime, chief resident in urology at UC Davis and the study’s lead author. The findings are a clear signal that men who worked with Agent Orange should be cared for differently, getting earlier biopsies and more aggressive treatment, he said. “This is a high-risk group.” Chaime described the study of more than 13,000 Northern California veterans over eight years as “the biggest study ever done” on Agent Orange effects. It will be published in the 15 SEP print edition of Cancer, after online publication last week, and Chaime hopes it soon could lead to new Department of Veterans’ Affairs treatment standards.

 

For Vietnam vet James McKasson, who participated in the study, the findings are a reminder that no one exposed to Agent Orange should delay prostate-cancer testing. McKasson, 62, a retired auto mechanic, said he’s doing well after being diagnosed with prostate cancer last year – 40 years after he helped load Agent Orange onto planes in the 1960s. He worked with both liquid and powdered forms of the chemical, and “this stuff would slop around; it would drip on you,” he recalled. “You’d walk through it and get it on your shoes, on your clothes, on your hands. … They didn’t give us any protective clothing at all.” For decades, McKasson didn’t worry much about studies that linked exposure to diseases ranging from diabetes to soft-tissue cancer to birth defects in veterans’ children. “I’m an advocate now,” he said, telling his “stubborn” friends to have regular checks for prostate cancer.

The chemical was used widely during the Vietnam War to defoliate jungle areas where U.S. forces believed enemies were hiding. It also was used around U.S. military facilities at home and abroad as early as the 1950s, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. About 375,000 men nationwide are on the military’s Agent Orange registry of those exposed, and roughly one-third can be expected to develop prostate cancer, Chaime said. “This has huge implications for men, especially in the VA,” but also for those treated by private insurance, whose primary care doctors and urologists may not have seen the latest data, he added. Of the 13,000 men followed by the study, just under half had been exposed to Agent Orange. Among the 6,214 exposed, 239 were diagnosed with prostate cancer over eight years, compared with 124 of 6,930 unexposed veterans. [Source: The Sacramento Bee Carrie Peyton Dahlberg article 5 Aug 08 ++]

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