Prostate cancer in US Air Force veterans of the Vietnam war

Marian Pavuk, Joel E. Michalek, Norma S. Ketchum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


US Air Force veterans of Operation Ranch Hand sprayed herbicides contaminated with 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) in Vietnam from 1962 to 1971. Comparisons served in Southeast Asia (SEA) during the same time period but did not spray herbicides. Here we investigate a potential association between exposure to TCDD and prostate cancer. Data were available for 2516 veterans (1019 Ranch Hand and 1497 Comparison) who participated in at least one of six physical examinations starting in 1982 and had a measurement of serum TCDD. We assigned Ranch Hands to two exposure categories: Lower and Higher, based on their median 20-year cumulative TCDD level. In total, 81 Comparison and 59 Ranch Hand prostate cancers were identified between 1 January 1982 and 31 December 2003. We found no overall increase in the risk of prostate cancer in Ranch Hand veterans versus the Comparisons. There was a positive association in Ranch Hand veterans in the Higher TCDD category who served in SEA before 1969 (RR = 2.27, 95% CI 1.11-4.66) when more contaminated herbicides were used, but the number of cases was small (n = 15). A within-group comparison found that in Comparison veterans, time served in SEA was associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer (RR = 2.18, 95% CI 1.27-3.76, >789 days versus ≤789 days). No increase in the risk of prostate cancer was observed within the Ranch Hand group in association with TCDD or time served in SEA. These analyses suggest that a longer service in SEA and exposures other than TCDD may have increased the risk of prostate cancer in Comparison veterans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)184-190
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Agent Orange
  • Cancer
  • Prostate
  • Southeast Asia
  • TCDD
  • Vietnam veterans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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