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Vietnam veterans sustain cancer threat.

Vietnam veterans sustain cancer threat

U.S. veterans of the Vietnam war face a 50 percent greater risk of developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma -- a deadly cancer of the lymph nodes -- than men who did not serve in Vietnam, according to a new study. Vietnam veterans have a risk of 1.5 per 10,000, compared with a risk of 1 in 10,000 among controls, the researchers report.

The study, conducted by the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and 12 U.S. research institutions, does not suggest a reason for the heightened risk. However, it does indicate that the incidence of this cancer, which strikes 35,600 people in the United States each year, cannot be linked to the dioxin-containing Agent Orange. Veterans' groups and some scientists contest that conclusion.

The researchers found that only one of 99 Vietnam veterans with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma reported handling Agent Orange sprayers, and none reported spraying the jungle defoliant. The risk pattern observed in the study group, they say, seems to argue against any link between Agent Orange and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma: Veterans serving on Navy ships off the coast of Vietnam had a higher risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma than land veterans, who got more exposure to Agent Orange.

But the study didn't assess Agent Orange exposure directly, argues John F. Sommer of the American Legion in Washington, D.C. Instead, the researchers used interviews with veterans to gauge their exposure -- a method he calls unreliable.

The finding that Vietnam veterans who served at sea have a higher incidence of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma than land troops is probably a statistical fluke, contends epidemiologist Jeanne M. Stellman of Columbia University in New York City. Previous studies have shown that exposure to herbicides, such as Agent Orange, boost the risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, she adds (SN: 9/13/86, p. 167).

The researchers looked at five other cancers as well, finding that Vietnam veterans showed no more risk than men who had not served in Vietnam.
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Publication:Science News
Date:Apr 14, 1990
Words:327
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