When the data from the general population and veterans affairs patients is compared, you clearly see that certain types of cancers are more common in the military veterans than they are in the former group. Over the course of time, the military, general public, veterans rights movements, and various other organizations have blamed several factors for increasing the risk of cancer incidence in military service members.
The deeper you dive into the VACCR data and compare it to the SEER cancer data, you realize that the environments the veterans have to live in, the air they have to breathe in, and the foods and water they intake are all reasons for their exposure to carcinogens and various other harmful chemicals, substances, and agents. Looking at the data, you will notice certain patterns that give you a slight clue of what’s causing cancer in the military, which ethnicities or races are more prone to certain types of cancers, and where things stand in terms of the total number of cancer incidences in veterans.
Before getting into the specifics of cancer statistics in the honored servicemen and servicewomen who served the military, let’s take a look at some of the general statistics and patterns that emerge according to a study in 2010 of veterans with cancer.
This should give you a quick roundup and a clear picture of the cancer occurrence in the veterans population. Different types of cancers are common in different groups, but when you look at the data as a whole, you realize that veterans exposed to certain conditions are at a higher risk of certain diseases regardless of their age, ethnicity, or race.
Now that we have a clear picture of all cancer incidences in veterans, we can take a look at the statistics separately for each type of cancer.
This is the cancer with the highest percentage in military veterans. As you can tell from the name, this type of cancer is most common in males because the prostate gland is found in men only. It is important to mention here that a similar gland in women is also found, namely Skene’s Gland, but the cancer of this particular gland is so rare in women that it is almost negligible. From the statistical analysis frequency distributions, you can tell that the Black veterans population is prone to this type of cancer the most with the percentage of such cases going as high as 40.86%. This is the highest percentage when you compare the data to White veterans and veterans of other races. Nearly 30% of the cases of prostate cancer occur in non-white and non-black military servicemembers. The White population in the military accounts for 26.21% of the prostate cancer cases.
One of the most important things you have to know about this type of cancer is that its risk increases with age in males. When you visit the doctor, they have several ways to test for the presence of prostate cancer. The first test might just be a questionnaire wherein they ask you about any symptoms that appear to be a sign of the condition. In addition to that, they will ask you about your family history to know if the likelihood of you having this type of cancer is high.
The doctors will also recommend a PSA test to confirm the presence of prostate cancer. In this test, they are just measuring the quantity of PSA protein in your blood or semen. If the protein is higher than a specific range, it might point to the possibility of the prostate cancer. Again, this test might not give 100% accurate results and further tests will be needed to confirm the cancer diagnosis.
Prostate Biopsy is the next step once you have completed the PSA test. This is where the urologist will confirm the presence of the cancer and the treatment will be recommended for the veteran based on the results of this test. Keep in mind that no matter how many symptoms you are experiencing of prostate cancer, never assume that you have it. It is always recommended that you visit your doctor and let them test you for it.
Prostate cancer is quite common in men as the statistics show, which might get some veterans paranoid that they have it after examining only a few symptoms. However, this can put you under a lot of mental stress without you even knowing the results completely. So, it makes sense to get in touch with a doctor and let them examine you for prostate cancer diagnosis.
Breast cancer is among the most frequently diagnosed cancers and THE most frequently diagnosed cancer in female veterans. The percentage of breast cancer in women servicing in the military is equal the percentage of prostate cancer occurrence in men in the military i.e. 30%. That rate is very high and quite concerning for women who are serving in the military. A study finds that the occurrence of breast cancer in military women is 40% higher than it is in women who are not serving in the military.
The factors that contribute to the heightened risk of breast cancer in female veterans are quite similar to the factors that cause other types of cancers in male veterans i.e. exposure to toxic gases and smoke, drinking of contaminated water, and exposure to other carcinogens on the field.
It is still quite early to say a lot about the exact causes of breast cancer in servicewomen, but studies are underway, and soon there will be as much data as there is to prove the exact causes of prostate cancer in men who are serving in the military. The one important thing to keep in mind is that denser breasts have a higher risk of attracting breast cancer.
Again, it needs to be brought to attention here that Veterans Affairs is doing a good job of detecting the presence of breast cancer among military servicewomen more effectively than the systems that are built for the general population. According to a study, more than 80% of women who have served in the military and were 50 years to 74 years of age were tested for the possibility of breast cancer. The percentage of screening for the non-military population is much lower at 73%.
The data from VA central cancer registry should only encourage non-military organizations to quicken and optimize their processes so they can give more and more women access to proper screening to detect the presence of breast cancer. Again, you can’t ignore the fact that early detection of any type of cancer can increase the survival rates in cancer patients.
This one ranks second on the list of cancer types that are common among men and women serving the military. The most concerning part of this type of cancer is that it is common not only in men veterans but also women veterans. As stated earlier, lung cancer forms 18% of all cancer cases in US veterans whereas the same condition is common among female veterans at a percentage of 15%.
The statistics for lung cancer are even more concerning than they are for prostate cancer. It is clear from the statistics that female cancers occurred in veterans don’t include this type because it is extremely rare. However, when it comes to lung cancer, not only is it common among men and women, but it is prevalent across various races in the military as well. The color of the skin does not matter for lung cancer as its percentages are quite high among male and female veterans of White, Black, and other races.
To give you a complete breakdown of lung cancer in the US veterans, 18.51% of the White veterans have this conditions whereas the black veterans also have 15.28% of these cases. Other races in the military are also not lucky in this category as lung cancer is prevalent among them at nearly 13%. If you account for other types of respiratory cancers, the percentages are even higher and don’t get any better for any race. With all respiratory system cancers taken into account, White veterans have 20.53% of the cases, Blacks 17.07%, and other races have 14.21% of the cases of various respiratory system cancers.
When you look at these statistics, it becomes quite clear that lung cancer is even more dangerous for the US veterans than prostate cancer. The fact that lung cancer affects all races and genders makes it a more concerning point for anyone who wants to be a part of the military. The department of Veterans Affairs has joined hands with the National Cancer Institute to work on various cancer-related programs and it only goes to show that the two departments see a huge gap that needs to be filled to help veterans with prostate cancers and other cancer diagnoses.
This type of cancer ranks third on the list. What you need to know about this type of cancer is that it is not limited to a specific location. The name actually includes a variety of organs and parts of the body including but not limited to small intestine, anus, rectum, stomach, esophagus, etc. The bad news is that the US Military has many incidences of this cancer type. You can say that the bigger category under which all of these cancer types are considered is the digestive system.
There are different ways for doctors to find out about the cancer of these regions. The silver lining in this particular case is that colorectal cancer patients in the US Military have a higher chance of survival than the cancer patients in the general population. There are several factors associated with that and you’ll know about them as you continue to read.
If you are a veteran, you should know that you have an 18% higher chance of surviving than the colorectal cancer patients in the general population. Further, this high chance of survival is nearly identical among black veterans and white veterans. Keep in mind that it is one of the frequently diagnosed cancers so any increased chance of survival is great news for those in the military.
The comparison between VA central cancer registry data and the data from SEER is quite thorough. The study that reveals the patterns of colorectal cancer in veterans vs general population was conducted for more than 4 years. Another factor that played a huge role in the survival rates was the stage at which the cancer was diagnosed.
Before you even begin to talk about this type of cancer, know that it is one of the most frequently diagnosed cancers that have occurred in the military patients due to their exposure to Agent Orange. There have been several studies that showed results linking the occurrence of kidney cancer in military patients to their exposure to Agent Orange. The same substance is also notorious for causing prostate cancer in hundreds and thousands of military servicemen, especially those who served in Vietnam War.
Do keep in mind that kidney or pelvic cancer cannot be ignored because they are the 4th most commonly diagnosed cancer incidence in the military. The percentage of 4% for renal pelvis or kidney cancer is quite high, but it is important to mention here that this type of cancer is more common in male veterans than it is in female veterans.
Like some other types of cancers, you will notice that the rate of this cancer’s occurrence is quite high in veterans belonging to other races than White and Black. More than 3.8% of the White patients in the military have this type of cancer and only 3.75% of Black veterans. However, the same condition is as common as 5.09% in military servicemen belonging to other races.
Do keep in mind that you can get VA benefits of kidney cancer based on a special rating system from Veterans Affairs. This system goes from 10% and all the way up to 100% of benefits based on the severity and stage of the condition. While not as common as prostate cancer, this condition can cause serious problems if not treated at early stages.
The next most frequently occurring cancers in veterans is Melanoma, and you can’t ignore the fact that based on the data from VA central cancer registry, this condition affects men and women both. Do keep in mind that there are many other skin cancer incidences that might not constitute Melanoma, but it is one of the most common types.
When you look at the data that studies Melanoma and other skin cancers in the US military, World War II is an important event. The data obtained from the war by the department of veterans affairs shows that the highest occurrence rates of this condition in the military occurred to those who were serving in Tropical regions. More study will be needed to confirm the exact causes, but it is clear from most of the studies that the US Air Force is the biggest victim of this type of cancer.
The military is already notorious for not being very serious with protective gear for the servicemen and servicewomen. It has been proved over and over that the department of Veterans Affairs needs to increase awareness of the use of protective gear in veterans to protect from this type of cancer. Most studies reveal direct and prolonged exposure to direct sunlight as being one of the most common reasons for the occurrence of this type of cancer.
Due to the nature of their job, veterans are usually not in the position to protect themselves from the sunlight. However, once of the recommendations for the military is to find a way to get checked for this type of cancer as frequently as possible because early detection can lead to elevated survivability of the veteran. National Cancer Institute is working on several programs to ensure the reduction, prevention, and diagnosis of this type of cancer at early stages.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has to expedite its programs on detecting and treating Melanoma and other skin conditions in the military due to the evidence brought by the recent studies. These recent studies show an increased risk of Melanoma occurrence in military veterans when you compare the cancer risk in the general population to the data from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Here, it is important to talk about age at diagnosis. You will read more about age at diagnosis further in the article, but here, it is crucial to mention that the risk of this type of cancer increases significantly in the later years. Most veterans had crossed the 65 mark when they were diagnosed with this condition and there’s bad news for White veterans as they have an increased risk of getting this condition than veterans from other races.
In addition age at diagnosis, you should also pay attention to the fact that it is one of the rare conditions that are quite common in not only males but also females in the military. In fact it is more concerning for women serving in the military because a rate of 4.44% is much higher than the rate of 3.73% of cancer in women vs men respectively. The risk of this skin condition in black veterans is extremely low at 0.23%, whereas it is elevated beyond concerning levels in White veterans at 4.64%.
Over 50,000 veterans are diagnosed with one or another form of cancer that can take their lives if not diagnosed and treated on time. According to National Cancer Institute, you can expect this number to only go up in the coming years because of the aging population of the military. During the life cycle of a veteran, there are more than a couple reasons that cause cancer in them. Here are some of the main causes that result in one or multiple types of cancers in military veterans.
It is quite unfortunate that so many of these soldiers can end up with multiple cancer diagnoses. What is even more concerning is the fact that with the passage of time and more cancer research, we will only know about more cancer incidences. The Department of Veterans Affairs is one of the most active bodies in the world busying itself in cancer research.
Its primary target is to work on commonly diagnosed cancers. With hundreds of medical centers and clinics around the world, VA cancer incidence might only seem to grow, but the fact of the matter is, higher number means that Veterans Affairs is doing a good job of reporting all of these cases.
Let’s take a look at some detailed notes on the most frequent causes of cancer in the military.
Agent Orange is one of the most common names that appear in most cancer diagnoses done in the military. Besides prostate cancers, this herbicide has contributed more to the suffering of military veterans than any other factor by causing a variety of cancer types.
Dioxin was the most dangerous chemical in Agent Orange that wreaked havoc on the health of military veterans during their services, and more so after they were retired. Its common use occurred in Vietnam War because it is a herbicide and was continuously used for nearly a decade to kill the jungle to locate and reveal the enemies.
Research shows that one of the reasons Agent Orange exposure has remained so detrimental to the health of the US Military is its unfair usage in concentrations that were not even recommended by the makers of this chemical.
While the US Military poured a variety of other types of agents named after other colors, Agent Orange was used most commonly, making up a whopping 60% of all the chemicals the military used to kill the herbs and plants.
That’s more than 12 million gallons of this killing chemicals in less than a decade. To make matters worse, the military used it in extremely higher concentrations than were recommended by those who made Agent Orange.
VA patients newly diagnosed with any type of cancer caused by Agent Orange is only increasing with time because the population of veterans that participated in Vietnam War is entering or is already in their later years. Cancer incidence is much higher in patients over the age of 50 Veterans Affairs data has shown the 55 to 64 is the age range with the highest cancer incidence rate.
Bladder cancer, Bronchus cancer, lung cancer, multiple myeloma, Hodgkin lymphoma, and larynx cancer are among the common types of cancers caused by Agent Orange.
Radiation from nuclear weapons is the biggest culprit of all among any other catastrophic military exposures. According to information from Veterans Affairs and many other independent bodies reporting on cancer, radiation can cause just about any type of cancer that exists.
Veterans were exposed to radiation in a variety of ways. They were either working in nuclear power reactors or as x-ray techs. They were involved in the testing of nuclear weapons or were appointed by the military at a location that had radiation, such as Nagasaki, Hiroshima, etc. The gaseous diffusion plants at Tennessee, Ohio, Kentucky, and Alaska were also places where veterans has radiation exposure.
Cancer diagnoses due to radiation exposure include but are not limited to colorectal cancer, Leukemia, kidney cancer, small intestine cancer, lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, liver cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, bone cancer, and even bile duct cancer.
When it comes to exposure to asbestos, the first thing that comes up is mesothelioma. This is the most common type of cancer that is caused in people due to their exposure to asbestos. The problem is that nearly a century ago, the military did not have any option to avoid exposure to asbestos.
This condition takes its toll on the lining of your stomach or lungs. Keep in mind that nearly 30% of all the cases that had this condition had come in contact with asbestos at some point. The veterans were not exempt from this type of cancer regardless of the military branch they were a part of. In fact, things are worse for them if they have served in the Marine Corps of the Navy.
Cancer death due to asbestos in veterans is relatively higher when you compare the numbers with national cancer statistics. Most newly diagnosed patients with this condition either worked as mechanics for repairing vehicles or in various construction jobs in the military. Most importantly, any veterans who served in Iraq or other Middle Eastern countries have higher risks of developing this condition because of the presence of asbestos in the construction materials in those countries.
Age at diagnosis matters a lot in this case because unlike other forms of lung cancer diagnosis, the identification of this type of cancer might come many years after exposure. In fact, while consider age at diagnosis, you will discover that any cancer due to exposure to this substance might not become evident until after 40 or 50 years.
Mesothelioma is the most common condition resulting from exposure to this agent. The other big condition is lung cancer. A great population of veterans has mesothelioma due to exposure to asbestos at some point.
One of the recent factors discovered by various researchers is the burn pits, which have been very common in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Most of the burn pit exposure cases appear in the veterans who served in the Middle Eastern countries.
If you were a part of the war in Afghanistan or the Kuwaiti and Iraqi war in the 1990s and you have cancer, you must get checked by a doctor as soon as possible. More importantly, you should apply for VA health benefits. VA healthcare system is very serious about cancers resulting from burn pit exposure.
DoD or the Department of Defense has conducted some serious studies to find out the connection between burn pit exposures and cancer incidence in veterans.
The biggest culprit here is TCDD, which a common substance in the fumes released by burn pits and Agent Orange. This substance can cause serious heart conditions and central nervous and respiratory system diseases.
If you are looking for a service connection with your condition, you should know that you can’t claim it with VA on presumptive grounds. If you don’t know, what it means is that if you have served in certain locations that the Department of Veterans Affairs thinks were contaminated with carcinogenic fumes, you will not have to prove a connection with the service at all.
Intestinal cancers, lung cancer, prostate cancer, bladder cancer, bone cancer, leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, etc. are some of the conditions that can be caused due to breathing in the harmful fumes surrounding the burn pits.
In this particular incidence, it was the Marine Corps that had to pay the biggest price. North Carolina is where Camp Lejeune was located, and the drinking of contaminated water at the camp is associated with a variety of cancers in veterans.
The duration during which the marines were unknowingly drinking contaminated water at Camp Lejeune is quite long i.e. from 1950 to 1980 and later years. Certain facilities treating water in that area had leaked tanks that caused the drinking water to be contaminated by chemicals that could cause cancer.
The worst part of this incidence is that it did not affect only the veterans. In fact, even the military families were affected by the presence of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) in the water they were drinking.
Vinyl Chloride, Toluene, and benzene are among other contaminants that were discovered later as the cause of cancer in military vets and the military family members.
The list of cancers that could have resulted from the water contamination at Camp Lejeune is disturbing and shocking at the same time. Some of the diseases resulting from this type of exposure include but are not limited to non-Hodgkin lymphoma, bladder cancer, multiple myeloma, leukemia, and many others.
How soon or at what stage doctors diagnose cancer plays an important predictor of the chances of survival of cancer patients.
There are some good things and some bad news to share about the stage of cancer and survival in veterans. A study shows that lung cancer survival in the case of Non-small Cell Lung cancer is worse in veterans when you compare the data to that of general public. In the study, veteran cancer patients were studied and the sample consisted of those at stage IA and stage IB. The survival rates were poor in both groups with IB’s median age survival going as low as 28 months.
It is important to bring your attention to the fact that VA male cancer diagnoses have shown great improvements in the past few years. When you consider pancreatic cancer, the progress has been great for veterans at various VA medical centers. A study on VA patient population having pancreatic cancer, which is considered highly fatal, shows these improvements.
Firstly, it is to VA’s credit that their treatment rate has increased over the years, going from 37.61% to nearly 42% by the end of 2014. Among VA cancer cases, the survival of only a small 9.29% of patients was possible in the 1 to 5 years survival category. It rose to nearly 23% in 2014. The category of up to 10-year survival also went as high as 6% in 2012 from just 0.96% twelve years ago.
When it comes to prostate cancer incidence in veterans, there is some relation with the survival rates and the deficiency of Vitamin D. A study reveals that survival rates were boosted among veterans with prostate cancer, but there was no relation found with the length of the survival and the presence of lack of Vitamin D in the patients.
There aren’t many studies that have gone into the details of survival rates in prostate cancer patients and their intake of Vitamin D. However, according to the study, if you exclude the length of survival and just talk purely of survival rates, they are surely higher in veterans with ample Vitamin D in their bodies.
The first thing to know here is that the survival rates are only getting better with time when you look at the recent VA registry data. Survival times have been increasing in patients who were diagnosed with colorectal cancers recent VA data according to a study.
The same study points to the fact that VA patients in the VA healthcare system are getting improved and much-needed palliative care when you look at their hospitalization status in the last 30 days of their lives.
When you look at any specific cancer diagnosis but study only the superficial trends, you might get the impression that the cancer population in the VA healthcare system isn’t getting the treatment it deserves. However, when you look deeper into these cancer cases and cancer population, you realize that VA health care system is doing great keeping in mind the way recent cancer cases have been handled by this system.
Last but not least, whether you talk about VA health care system or other cancer frequency trends, you can’t ignore the fact that the mental health of veterans plays an important role in their survival.
When you look at the cancer cases diagnosed in the VA health care system, it becomes evident that not only are these veterans getting proper palliative care, improved diagnoses, and apt treatments VA medical facilities, but they are also being given proper disability compensation once they prove service connection and meet other eligibility criteria.
Out of all the cancer cases occurring, most are getting the health services they need.
Now, going into the details of VA cancers and the mental health of veterans, it is clear their better mental health is associated with disease control. At the same time, deteriorated mental health can contribute to increased risk or ineffectiveness of the medical treatment being received.
The study took a sample of over 50,000 veterans and studied their survival based on two categories: those who received treatment for mental health and those who didn’t.
The study shows a huge benefit veterans can enjoy by participating in mental health treatment programs by revealing that their chances of living longer could increase significantly.
In a way, your mental health is more important than anything else, even military medicine. Whether it’s colorectal cancer or some other form of cancer, veteran affairs patients can live better lives by getting mental health treatments or other form of similar programs. The same study shows that veteran affairs patients can get diagnosed much at much earlier stages of their cancer compared to those who aren’t subscribed to such programs.
You cannot ignore the people who fight at borders for you and leave their country to live years in unfamiliar lands only so you can sleep in peace. Unfortunately, not all veterans get the cancer care they deserve because many of them are not even aware that they have cancer.
You can help them by being with them, offering them moral support, and giving them any help to get the cancer care through VA health care that they qualify for. In fact, even those who have not received proper honorable discharge from the military can benefit from VA health care benefits if they are led into the right direction.
Ehline Law is also working on finding the best ways to help the military men and women in getting the care they deserve in the healthcare system created by VA. One of the many initiatives is the Sgt. Paul Ehline Annual Ride.
This is an annual ride that Michael Ehline arranges for his dad who was a proud servant of the Marine Corps. Paul had cancer that he had attracted during this service for the military at some of the most dangerous locations, including his active duty during Vietnam War.
In the recent ride, Michael Ehline, the proud son of Sgt. Paul was given company by LMCI i.e. Leathernecks Marine Corps. They led from the front and showed their love for their marine brother.
The ride conducted by Michael Ehline is a way to celebrate the bravery and audacity of this marine father who stood with his brothers at trying times and participated in Vietnam War on will.
He had cancer due to all the chemical exposure during his service in the military, but he never let cancer weaken him. The idea of the ride is to commemorate him and his memories.
Also, the ride is meant to help other marine and service members through donation from those who love their soldiers.
Michael Ehline has made it a mission and taken it upon himself to remember his father in style every year. The Sgt. Paul Annual Ride is definitely a great way not only to celebrate a marine who will live forever in the hearts of the nation, but to also bring attention to the grave issue cancer incidence in the US military.
In addition to helping military service members through the collection of donations, the Ehline Law firm can provide assistance to veterans by helping them find lawyers who can help them with their VA cancer compensation and benefits.
While doing such a great deed to help the unsung heroes of the military, you must keep your focus as you continue to move on. That’s the message. If you don’t pay attention and aren’t focused, you’ll run into motorcycle accidents, which can lead to serious bodily injuries, expensive medical treatment, and other complications in your normal life.
However, if you have already found yourself in trouble after a motorcycle accident, Paul Ehline Ride motorcycle accident lawyers volunteering in other states are there to help you get the compensation you deserve to pay for medical expenses and to live the life that you have always dreamed of.
Donations submitted through donation forms on PaulEhlineRide.Org are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by U.S. and state laws. These will be in U.S. Federal Reserve Notes. Paul Ehline Memorial Ride™ is a U.S. nonprofit, tax-exempt charitable Section 501(c)(19) organization that benefits US Armed Forces veterans under the U.S. Internal Revenue Code. (Tax identification number 85-4040563.)