While the VA concedes that the TCDD that contaminated Agent Orange is likely involved in the development of some cancers, like Agent Orange lung cancer and Agent Orange prostate cancer, there are many veterans suffering from other cancers that are denied over and over gain by the VA. Is it true that TCDD only causes SOME cancers?
In the VA’s defense, it is very difficult to study TCDD’s effects on the human body. We can’t just go around giving the most toxic dioxin known to man to a bunch of test subjects. In addition, some cancers are very rare, so even in a study with a very large population, there may only be one or two, maybe even zero subjects with that particular type of cancer.
Why Rare Cancers are Difficult to Study
Let’s take a look at parotid adenocarcinoma as an example. This is a rare cancer affecting a salivary gland. Salivary gland cancer accounts for about 0.3% of all cancers. This means that only 1.2 per 100,000 people could be expected to contract any cancer in any of the three salivary glands. Of the 2,709,918 people who served in Vietnam, statistically, only about 32 should develop any type of salivary gland cancers.
If we search only BVA decisions, we find 1,500 cases that involve salivary gland cancers. This is obviously not scientific, maybe there are multiple cases from the same veteran, or there was cancer in other areas that spread to the salivary gland.
But what about actual, scientific studies? One study of 180,000 Vietnam veterans found 15 cases of salivary gland cancer in TCDD-exposed veterans. According to our numbers for salivary gland cancer above (1.2 per 100,000 people), shouldn’t this amount to less than 3 cases? Researchers also found an elevated risk for mouth cancers, stomach cancers, and liver cancers, none of which are presumed to be caused by the VA to be related to TCDD.
How TCDD Promotes Cancer in Epithelial Cells
It’s beginning to look like there is a distinct possibility that TCDD causes cancer, right? To be honest, while there is SOME evidence suggesting TCDD is carcinogenic, there is a strong possibility that TCDD may NOT be carcinogenic per se. However, if we take a look at how cancer works, and how TCDD interacts with the human body, we can see that TCDD is almost certainly a cancer promoter.
Let’s say that one of the cells in your body becomes damaged. What’s supposed to happen is that the cell is supposed to kill itself. This is known as “apoptosis,” but I’ll refer to it as “cell-suicide” here. This is one of the “Hallmarks of Cancer.” TCDD isn’t actually damaging that original cell-maybe it was a carcinogen in jet fuel fumes or cigarette smoke- but TCDD prevents this “cell-suicide” from happening. The research shows that this happens even when researchers give mice a chemical that is specifically designed to trigger “cell-suicide.”
Another “hallmark of cancer” is when cells keep replicating themselves. The signal to replicate comes from other cells. TCDD is believed to be disruptive to genes that regulate the switch that tells the cell to make copies of itself, known as the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR.) Research shows us that in colon cancer cells, TCDD flips this switch, and causes cancer cells to start reproducing like crazy. This is obviously NOT a good thing.
What all this clearly demonstrates is that TCDD is (much more likely than not) a cancer promoter in ANY carcinoma- any cancer that originates in epithelial cells. Carcinomas account for around 90% of all cancers. Other types of cancer include Lymphomas (around 7%), and sarcomas (1%.) However, the VA already concedes that the major lymphomas: Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Hodgkin’s Disease, and Multiple Myeloma can all be caused by agent Orange, as well as Soft Tissue Sarcomas.
All of this seems to add up to one simple fact:
Agent Orange Causes Cancer. Period.