Postservice mortality of us air force veterans occupationally exposed to herbicides in vietnam: 15-year follow-up

Joel E. Michalek, Norma S. Ketchum, Fatema Z. Akhtar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

49 Scopus citations


The US Air Force continues to assess the mortality of veterans of Operation Ranch Hand, the unit responsible for aerially spraying herbicides in Vietnam. The authors of this study found that the cumulative all-cause mortality experience of these veterans was not different from that expected (standardized mortality ratio (SMR) = 1.0). Overall, cause-specific mortality did not differ from that expected regarding deaths from accidents, cancer, or circulatory system diseases, but the authors found that there was an increased number of deaths due to digestive diseases (SMR = 1.7, 95% confidence interval (Cl) 0.9-3.2). When analyzing by military occupation, they found an increase in the number of deaths caused by circulatory system diseases (SMR = 1.5, 95% Cl 1.0-2.2) among enlisted ground personnel, the subgroup with the highest dioxin levels. Most of the increase in the number of deaths from digestive diseases was caused by chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, and more than half of the increase in the number of deaths from circulatory system diseases was a result of atherosclerotic heart disease. In the subgroup of Ranch Hand veterans who had survived more than 20 years since their military service in Southeast Asia, the authors found no significant increase in the risk of death due to cancer at all sites (SMR = 1.1) and a nonsignificant increase in the number of deaths due to cancers of the bronchus and lung (SMR: 1.3).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)786-792
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican journal of epidemiology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 15 1998
Externally publishedYes



  • Dioxins
  • Herbicides
  • Mortality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology

Cite this