Agent Orange Kills More than Plants

Kidney cancer could be caused by Agent Orange, Vietnam-era herbicide

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) During the Vietnam War, a chemical known as Agent Orange was used to kill the plants where the enemy hid. Over the years, Agent Orange was been linked to numerous types of cancer.

Now, it seems that the chemical could be responsible for kidney cancer in some veterans.

Researchers studied medical records of veterans with kidney cancer. They found that most those who said they were exposed to Agent Orange had a more dangerous type of kidney cancer.

"A chemical from the Vietnam War may cause kidney cancer."

Researchers at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Shreveport, LA looked at the medical records of 297 patients diagnosed with kidney cancer between 1987 and 2009.

The researchers studied patients' age at time of exposure to Agent Orange, tumor size, the side of lesion (kidney damage), course of the disease, and survival in the 10 patients who had documented reports on exposure to Agent Orange and the course of their disease.

According to Anthony Y. Smith, M.D., with the VA, says it was already known that Agent Orange is toxic and can cause cancer. This new finding shows that more research is needed to see if the chemical should be counted as a risk factor for kidney cancer.

Agent Orange is an herbicide that was used during the Vietnam War to destroy the ground cover of enemy fighters. Between 1962 and 1971, over 20 million gallons of similar herbicides were used. About half of these herbicides were Agent Orange.

The Study

  • 4 percent (13 patients) said they were exposed to Agent Orange
  • 90 percent of these patients had clear-cell cancers, which usually has worse results than papillary tumors
  • One patient had both clear-cell and papillary cancers
  • Four patients developed metastatic disease - when the cancer spreads from one organ to another
  • One patient died from kidney cancer
  • While the sample size was small, the results indicate that researchers need to look further into the relationship between Agent Orange and kidney cancer
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Review Date: 
May 16, 2011
Last Updated:
May 16, 2011