Lung Cancer and Service Exposure Threats
As previously mentioned, veterans with lung cancer are often assumed to be smokers (although 17.9% of individuals who get lung cancer never smoked).
There is a higher rate of smoking among military members, especially those who have been deployed than there is among civilians.
However, being more likely to smoke is not the only hazard that military members faced.
Learn more about common carcinogens that increased veterans’ risk of lung cancer.
Vietnam veterans with lung cancer likely developed it after exposure to Agent Orange, a herbicide used to clear brush and plant life that the Viet Cong used as cover.
Agent Orange Use in Vietnam
Between 1965 and 1971, over 100 million pounds of Agent Orange was used in Vietnam.
Some of the world’s most important medical organizations — including the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP) — have classified Agent Orange as a known carcinogen.
Asbestos was widely used by all military branches for decades since it resisted fire, water, and sound extremely well.
Though this dangerous material is now known to cause asbestos lung cancer and other health issues, the U.S. military — and the general public — did not know this until millions had already been exposed.
Did You Know?
Many veterans with lung cancer or other asbestos-related health problems served in the Navy. The reason for this is asbestos was extensively used in the construction of Navy ships.
Many other occupations may have exposed veterans to asbestos while they served.
These jobs included:
- Roofing or flooring installation
Other at-risk veterans are those who served in Iraq and its neighboring countries. The older buildings there may have released asbestos into the air when they were damaged.
Gulf War veterans have expressed concern about the possibility of developing lung cancer from exposure to depleted uranium (DU) munitions used during the war.
Troops were exposed to DU by operating the tanks and vehicles that shot the missiles, or if their own vehicles or bunkers were hit by DU munitions.
Did You Know?
DU is especially dangerous because its residue does not settle but instead floats in the air and infiltrates water sources such as rivers, oceans, and lakes.
DU has been linked to bone and kidney ailments as well as lung cancer.
Studies estimate that DU-caused tumors can form in the lung as soon as 2 to 5 years after exposure, although they may not be diagnosed until several years later.