Vietnam veterans who served from 1962-1971 have double the rate of chronic lymphatic leukaemia compared to the general population according to a new study by the University of Otago’s Department of Preventive and Social Medicine.
The US Institute of Medicine, in their report ‘Veterans and Agent Orange: Health Effects of Herbicides Used in Vietnam’first classified chronic lymphatic leukaemia on their ‘sufficient evidence for cancer’ list in 2002, based on dioxin toxicity and studies of farm workers exposed to herbicides. The cohorts of Australian and New Zealand soldiers are the only group of Vietnam veterans to show an actual excess of the disease.
The results also show that although 407 veterans died over the study period the overall rate of death from all causes was 15% lower than the general population suggesting lower incidence of mortality and morbidity. Mortality from cancer was not significantly lower or higher however than the general population, and there was no decrease in ‘all cancer’ incidence.
“The pattern of lower overall mortality is known as the ‘healthy soldier effect’ which is related to the fact that this cohort would have been selected for its health and fitness,” says lead author Dr David McBride.