Serum dioxin and cancer in veterans of operation ranch hand

Norma S. Ketchum, Joel E. Michalek, Joseph E. Burton

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    48 Scopus citations


    We studied cancer prevalence and exposure to 2,3,7,8- tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (dioxin) in veterans of Operation Ranch Hand, the Air Force unit responsible for the aerial spraying of herbicides in Vietnam from 1962 to 1971. A comparison group of Air Force veterans who served in Southeast Asia during the same period and who were not involved with spraying herbicides was included. Comparison veterans were matched to Ranch Hand veterans on age, race, and military occupation. We measured dioxin in 1987 or 1992, extrapolated the result to the time of service in Southeast Asia, and assigned each Ranch Hand veteran to Background, Low, or High exposure categories. This study had low power to detect an effect for specific or rare cancers. The risk of cancer at sites other than the skin within 20 years of service was increased in the Low (odds ratio (OR) = 3.4, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.5-8.0) and High (OR 2.7, 95% CI 0.9-8.0) categories, but the pattern was inconsistent with another study, suggesting that the excess risk may not have been caused by dioxin exposure. Overall, we found no consistent evidence of a dose-response gradient and no significant increase in cancer risk in the High dioxin exposure category, the subgroup of greatest a priori interest.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)630-639
    Number of pages10
    JournalAmerican journal of epidemiology
    Issue number7
    StatePublished - Apr 1 1999


    • Dioxins
    • Environmental exposure
    • Herbicides
    • Military medicine
    • Military personnel
    • Neoplasms
    • Veterans

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Epidemiology


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