Exposure to the herbicide Agent Orange has long been considered a potential risk factor for multiple myeloma (MM) and its precursor condition, monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS), although the science behind the association was limited.
Now, new research brings definitive evidence that Operation Ranch Hand veterans, U.S. Air Force (USAF) personnel who conducted aerial missions spraying the chemical during the Vietnam War, are more than two times as likely to have MGUS as other veterans (JAMA Oncol 2015;1:1061-1068, PMID: 26335650).
“There has already been approval by the federal government to compensate people who served in the Vietnam War and developed lymphoma and myeloma, but there was no scientific evidence behind that—it was a political consensus,” said lead researcher C. Ola Landgren, MD, PhD a professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and the chief of the Myeloma Service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, both in New York City. “That motivated my colleagues and me to follow up on prior findings and investigate the link between MGUS and exposure to Agent Orange.”
To do so, Dr. Landgren and his colleagues carried out a detailed examination of data and stored blood samples obtained from Operation Ranch Hand veterans and comparison veterans who served in Southeast Asia at the same time, from 1962 to 1971, but were not involved in herbicide spray missions.