Gulf War veterans exposed to chemical munitions at Khamisiyah, Iraq are nearly twice as likely as their unexposed peers from the same war to die from brain cancer, according to a report in the American Journal of Public Health.
“We found an approximately twofold excess of brain cancer deaths, 12 to 13 excess deaths in a population of 100,000 veterans, associated with possible exposure to chemical warfare agents,” Tim A. Bullman, from the Department of Veteran Affairs in Washington, DC, and colleagues report.
In the new study, rates of death from specific causes for 100,487 exposed US army veterans were compared with those for 224,980 unexposed veterans.
For most diseases, no difference in mortality was seen between the two groups, the investigators point out. The exception was brain cancer for which the exposed group had an elevated risk of death.
Further analysis showed evidence of an effect based exposure levels. For instance, compared with their unexposed peers, veterans exposed to chemical munitions for one day were 72 percent more likely to die from brain cancer, while those exposed for two or more days were 226 percent more likely to die from brain cancer.
However, the investigators caution that additional research is needed to confirm these findings.
SOURCE: American Journal of Public Health, August 2005.
Revision date: June 22, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD