Agent Orange exposure linked to bladder cancer, hypothyroidism

A new review of Agent Orange research found evidence that bladder cancer and hypothyroidism are more strongly linked to exposure to the herbicide than previously thought, but the science does not support a previously held belief that spina bifida occurs in the offspring of exposed veterans at higher rates.

A report released Thursday by the Institute of Medicine on the health effects of Agent Orange also recommended the Veterans Affairs Department grant service-connected presumption to veterans with “Parkinson’s-like symptoms,” not just those diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease related to Agent Orange exposure.

The 1,115-page review is the final in a series conducted by the IOM on health problems related to Agent Orange and other herbicide use during the Vietnam War.

“There is no rational basis for exclusion of individuals with Parkinson’s-like symptoms from the service-related category denoted as Parkinson’s disease,” members of the IOM panel wrote in the report.The panel, chaired by Kenneth Ramos, professor of medicine at the Arizona Health Sciences Center, University of Arizona, reviewed the scientific literature on Agent Orange released between October 2012 and September 2014 for its review.

The decision on bladder cancer and hypothyroidism was tied to results of a large study of Korean War veterans who served in the Vietnam War suggested an association while the choice to downgrade spina bifida was based on a lack of data, panel members said.

“[The inclusion of] spina bifida in the limited or suggestive category of association was based on preliminary findings from [an ongoing Air Force study]. However, to date, a complete analysis of the data from that study for neural tube defects has not been published … [and] no subsequent studies have found increases in spina bifida with exposure to components of the herbicides sprayed in Vietnam,” they wrote.

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