A new study has revealed that people who have been exposed to Agent Orange, a herbicide and defoliant used during the Vietnam War, are at an increased risk of aggressive recurrence of prostate cancer.
Agent Orange is the code name for a herbicide and defoliant used by the U.S. military in its Herbicidal Warfare program during the Vietnam War, when an estimated 21,136,000 gal. of Agent Orange were sprayed across South Vietnam.
About 4.8 million Vietnamese people were exposed to Agent Orange, resulting in 400,000 deaths and disabilities, and 500,000 children born with birth defects.
Of 1495 veterans who underwent radical prostatectomy to remove their cancerous prostates, 206 exposed to Agent Orange had nearly a 50 percent increased risk of their cancer recurring despite the fact that their cancer seemed relatively nonaggressive at the time of surgery.
The recurring cancer had doubled the level of prostate specific antigen, or PSA- an indicator of aggressiveness.
"There is something about the biology of these cancers that are associated with prior Agent Orange exposure that is causing them to be more aggressive. We need to get the word out," said Dr. Martha Terris, chief of urology at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta and professor of urology at the Medical College of Georgia School of Medicine.
"Not only are their recurrence rates higher but their cancers are coming back and growing much faster when they do come back," she added.