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Agent Orange was a chemical spray that was heavily used during the Vietnam War era. It was often contaminated with dioxin, a potentially cancer-causing chemical. Previous research suggests that exposure to Agent Orange increases the risk of prostate cancer, but it wasn't known if it specifically increases the risk of more dangerous forms of the disease.
In this study, researchers looked at more than 2,700 U.S. veterans who underwent a prostate biopsy. Prostate cancer was diagnosed in 33 percent of the veterans, including 17 percent with high-grade disease, according to the study, which was published online May 13 in the journal Cancer.
Exposure to Agent Orange was linked with a 52 percent increase in overall prostate cancer risk, a 75 percent increased risk of high-grade prostate cancer and a more than doubled risk of the deadliest forms of the disease.
The findings suggest that determining veterans' exposure to Agent Orange can help identify those who may be at increased risk for prostate cancer, leading to earlier detection and treatment, said Dr. Mark Garzotto, of the Portland Veterans Administration Medical Center and Oregon Health & Science University, and colleagues.
"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," Garzotto said in a journal news release.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: Cancer, news release, May 13, 2013