A report about skin cancer was published in the February issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Vietnam War veterans may be at higher risk for developing certain types of skin cancer. The report suggests that the herbicide Agent Orange could be the cause. The study was done by ASPS Member Surgeon Dr. Mark W. Clemens of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Non-melanotic invasive skin cancer (NMISC) was the type most commonly found in war veterans. The study revealed that even four decades after the war, these veterans are still at risk for developing cancer. Some veterans that were exposed to the herbicide are suffering from an unusually aggressive non-melanoma skin cancer.

Agent Orange was used during the Vietnam War as a herbicide and jungle defoliant. The herbicide contains the highly toxic dioxin contaminant TCDD.

Dr. Clemens stated, “TCDD is among the most carcinogenic compounds ever to undergo widespread use in the environment.”

The medical records of 100 men were analyzed. Each man was enrolled in the Agent Orange registry at the Veterans Affairs Hospital. About 56 percent of the veterans were exposed to the herbicide from their living and working conditions. Another 30 percent of veterans were exposed because they were actively spraying the herbicide.  14 percent were traveling through contaminated areas. The research was only studying men with lighter skin. 51 percent of exposed veterans suffer from NMISC. Men who actively sprayed the herbicide had a risk of 73 percent of developing skin cancer. Men with the lightest skin and eyes had the highest risk of getting cancer.

Nearly half the veterans suffered from a different skin condition known as chloracne. Unfortunately, about 80 percent of all the veterans developed NMISC.

Malignant melanoma is considered the most serious type of skin cancer. There were two reports of men whose skin cancer was unusually aggressive. They had numerous reoccurrences and had to undergo many surgeries.

Agent Orange and TCDD can cause other health problems in addition to cancer. The first cases of veterans developing cancer were reported in the 1980s. The study began after Dr. Clemens observed various patients in the clinic. The researchers admitted that the study is not completely reliable. There is a lack of detailed information on TCDD exposure and the absence of a comparison group not exposed to the herbicide. Regardless, the results show an increase in veterans developing skin cancer even decades after the war.

Dr. Clemens stated, “Further studies are warranted to determine the relative risk within this patient population and to determine appropriate management strategies.”

Skin cancer can affect people for various reasons. Even people that have not been exposed to TCDD can be at risk for developing skin cancer. Over exposure to the sun without proper protection can cause cancer. It is important that you are taking precautions to avoid over exposure of hazardous things. If you have been experiencing possible symptoms of skin cancer, see a medical professional immediately. The doctors at Las Vegas Urgent Care will provide quality treatment in a timely manner. You don’t need to schedule an appointment either. The medical office provides emergent health care. For more information, contact 702.852.2000.

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