June 9, 2010 - More than 30 years after the end of the Vietnam War we are still finding new health issues presenting themselves in veterans who have been exposed to Agent Orange and other defoliants. A new study at the University of Buffalo has shown those veterans exposed to Agent Orange reflect an appreciably higher rate of Graves' disease, which is a disorder of the thyroid.
Agent Orange contains the chemical dioxin. Dioxin's chemical construction includes properties comparable to thyroid hormones. Those veterans who came in contact with Agent Orange are 3 times more likely to develop the autoimmune disorder. Researchers compared Graves' disease to other thyroid diagnoses but found no noteworthy differences in either nodules or thyroid cancer.
Graves' disease is symptomatic of an overactive thyroid gland. The thyroid gland controls a body's metabolism. Therefore, the gland is responsible for regulating:
Researchers used the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) electronic medical record database for upstate New York. Veterans were then broken into two groups: those veterans who claimed exposure to Agent Orange (23,939 veterans) and those not exposed (200,109 veterans). With Graves' disease being the only significant difference between the two groups, it was puzzling to find the exposed group having less common occurrences of hypothyroidism, which is when a thyroid functions are lower than normal levels.
Given what we know about the physical effects dioxin can inflict on a person's immune system, more research should be done in this area.
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