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Veterans Exposed to Agent Orange Increased Risk of Prostate Cancer Recurrence

Veterans exposed to Agent Orange have a 48 percent increased risk of prostate cancer recurrence following surgery than their unexposed peers , and when the disease comes back, it seems more aggressive, researchers say.

"We need to be screening these patients earlier, treating their cancer aggressively and following them closely afterward because they are at higher risk for recurrence," says Dr. Martha Terris, chief of the Urology Department at the Augusta Veterans Affairs Medical Center and professor of urology at the Medical College of Georgia.

"We looked at all patients, whether they were exposed or not, to see which were more likely to develop a recurrence and patients with a history of Agent Orange exposure were more likely," says Dr. Sagar R. Shah, MCG urology resident who is presenting the data May 20 during the American Urological Association Annual Meeting in Anaheim, Calif.

The study looked at 1,653 veterans who had prostate cancer surgery at Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers in five cities between 1990 and 2006; 199 had been exposed to Agent Orange, a herbicide and defoliant sprayed on the dense forests of Vietnam during the war.

Agent Orange contains the carcinogen, dioxin, which can be stored in body fat and is believed to make its way into the cell nucleus and work as a tumor promoter. In the past, relatively higher mortality rates have been found in chemical plant workers and farmers with prostate cancer who were exposed to dioxin, the researchers write in their abstract.

Dioxins impact is dose-related, and while the researchers did not measure levels of dioxin or Agent Orange, they suspect that blacks, who were more likely to be ground troops, also were more likely to have had more Agent Orange exposure.

Researchers found veterans with Agent Orange exposure more likely to be black and younger at the time of surgery to remove their prostate gland. The disea
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