The Link Between Agent Orange Exposure and Skin Cancer

The Link Between Agent Orange Exposure and Skin Cancer

Upon returning home from the Vietnam War, many Veterans discovered they had developed various chronic health conditions, such as diabetes or bladder cancer. Many Vietnam Veterans also developed skin cancer. 

Thanks to several studies, experts now believe Agent Orange contributed to skin cancer in at least thousands of Veterans. Read on to learn about the link between Agent Orange exposure and skin cancer.

Agent Orange – What Is It?

Agent Orange was a tactical herbicide used by the US military in the Vietnam War and related conflicts in areas. Many US military bases also stored it both within the United States and outside the US.

Agent Orange was primarily used to eliminate harmful or impeding vegetation, allowing military maneuvers to proceed unhindered. However, due to its nature as an herbicide, Agent Orange caused several toxic side effects in individuals exposed to it, including many US military Veterans.

The government discontinued Agent Orange’s use after the Vietnam War, but it had already affected many Veterans. When exposed Veterans came forward in droves with the same symptoms, Congress drafted a presumptive condition policy. Under the terms of this policy, Veterans who served in Vietnam and/or were exposed to Agent Orange who demonstrates one or more presumptive conditions may automatically qualify for disability benefits.

Agent Orange Health Risks

Agent Orange is known to cause or aggravate a wide range of illnesses and other health conditions, including but not limited to:

  • Diabetes mellitus type 2
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Ischemic heart disease
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Bladder cancer
  • Hodgkin’s disease
  • Prostate cancer

However, many Veterans also developed one or more types of skin cancer because of their direct exposure to Agent Orange.

Does Agent Orange Cause or Aggravate Skin Cancer?

As the full range of negative side effects of Agent Orange exposure came to light, it became clear that roughly half of all Veterans exposed to Agent Orange developed some type of skin cancer. This is due to the toxic dioxin contaminant called TCDD: one of the most carcinogenic compounds ever used on a large scale in an open environment.

Researchers examined the military and medical records of 100 consecutive men who had previously enrolled in the Agent Orange registry at the VA Hospital of Washington DC between August 2009 and January 2010. 

According to the results of this study, approximately 51% of Veterans exposed to Agent Orange developed skin cancer. In addition, approximately 73% of Veterans who sprayed or applied Agent Orange developed some type of skin cancer, directly linking this toxin to skin cancer.

Those aren’t the only studies and medical analyses proving a link between Agent Orange exposure and skin cancer.

Report from the IARC

According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (part of the World Health Organization), Agent Orange is classified as a dioxin known to be carcinogenic in humans. In other words, this proves that Agent Orange is a cancer risk of some kind, including risk for skin cancer, bladder cancer, prostate cancer, and much more.

This applies to other dioxins and tactical herbicides, not just Agent Orange.

Report from the NTP

The US National Toxicology Program – an interagency organization including the CDC, FDA, and NIH, additionally classified at least one chemical in Agent Orange (dioxin, specifically) as a known human carcinogen. 

Once more, by classifying Agent Orange as a known human carcinogen, the NTP notes that there’s always a chance of cancer development due to Agent Orange exposure, whether that exposure happens to the skin, by inhaling Agent Orange, by swallowing the dioxin, or something else.

Report from the NASEM

The US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has already linked exposure to Agent Orange and similar herbicides to various cancers and cancer precursors. As of its most recent report, entitled “Veterans and Agent Orange,” there is sufficient evidence of an association between Agent Orange and the following cancers and conditions:

  • Soft tissue sarcoma
  • Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia
  • Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance
  • Cancers of the lung, trachea, and bronchus
  • Prostate cancer
  • Bladder cancer
  • Cancer of the larynx or voicebox
  • Multiple myeloma

Given the results of this study, it’s clear that there is an obvious link between Agent Orange and skin cancer in Veterans.

Can You Be Tested for Agent Orange Exposure?

Unfortunately, no proven, consistent, or widely available laboratory tests can indicate whether a Veteran has been exposed to Agent Orange with any certainty. Therefore, you cannot simply be tested for Agent Orange exposure and link it to your skin cancer.

However, you can prove that you were exposed to Agent Orange by comparing your service records to known incidents or records of Agent Orange’s usage, storage, or deployment.

For example, if you know that you worked at a US military base that stored Agent Orange, you can potentially claim that you were exposed to Agent Orange as a matter of default certainty. In other words, the VA will assume that you were exposed to Agent Orange in some manner if you have skin cancer, even if you did not directly handle the chemical at any point.

Can You Recover Compensation for Skin Cancer Caused or Aggravated by Agent Orange?

Because of the legislative push to protect Veterans exposed to Agent Orange, the VA maintains a presumptive condition list of diseases that are now presumably linked to Agent Orange regardless of origin.

For example, certain types of cancers, such as multiple myeloma and prostate cancer, are automatically assumed to be caused or aggravated by Agent Orange if a Veteran served with or around the herbicide.

Unfortunately, skin cancer is not on the presumptive condition list at the time of this writing. Given the above studies and political pushes, that could change in the future. But for now, you cannot assume that you will receive VA disability benefits for your skin cancer, even if you served in the Vietnam War or were exposed to Agent Orange at any point in your military service.

You can still recover VA disability benefits for skin cancer caused or aggravated by Agent Orange, however. You’ll just need to provide more evidence substantiating your claim. This can include direct medical evidence, service record evidence, and lay statements from friends, family members, and other service members.

Proving Agent Orange Caused Your Skin Cancer

To prove that you developed skin cancer because of your military service and establish a service connection, you’ll need to:

  • Provide copies of your service records
  • Provide medical evidence of your skin cancer or other connected symptoms
  • Provide lay statements from yourself, friends, and family members, substantiating your claims

All of this evidence will have to support your disability benefits claim and show that you developed skin cancer during or after you served in the military. If you can also link your military service to Agent Orange exposure or handling this herbicide, you may have an even stronger claim because of the above-mentioned studies.

Even though skin cancer is not a presumptive condition for Agent Orange exposure, the VA still considers exposure to this herbicide to be dangerous. Therefore, linking your skin cancer to Agent Orange will make your claim stronger and make it more likely that you will receive maximum disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

It’s a good idea to contact Veterans law attorneys during this process. The right law firm can help you gather effective evidence and break down the disability claims steps one at a time. More importantly, your lawyers will ensure that your disability claim is as strong as possible, maximizing the compensation you may receive should your claim be approved.

Even if your claim is not approved, the right attorneys can help you through the appeals process. 

Contact Berry Law Today

If you or a loved one served in the Vietnam War or related conflicts, you might have been exposed to Agent Orange. If you were exposed to Agent Orange and got skin cancer afterward, you may be entitled to benefits from the VA.

Berry Law can help you investigate those benefits and file a disability benefits claim immediately. With the assistance of our knowledgeable lawyers, your claim will stand an excellent chance of recovering maximum disability benefits for you and your family. Contact us today to learn more.


Agent Orange Exposure And VA Disability Compensation | Veterans Affairs

Latency and Cancer Risk – Veterans and Agent Orange | NCBI Bookshelf 

The Vietnam Veteran vs. Agent Orange: The War That Lingers | GAO 

Vietnam Veterans and Agent Orange Exp osure – New Report | National Academies 

Agent Orange linked to skin cancer risk, report suggests | ScienceDaily 

Berry Law

The attorneys at Berry Law are dedicated to helping injured Veterans. With extensive experience working with VA disability claims, Berry Law can help you with your disability appeals.

This material is for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the Firm and the reader, and does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and the contents of this blog are not a substitute for legal counsel.

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