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Leukemia and Other Cancers

Q. Is there a possible link between leukemia and my serving in the Gulf War?

A. At this time, there is no information to indicate a connection between Gulf service and the subsequent occurrence of leukemia of any type. A comparison of military hospitalization rates for Gulf War veterans versus contemporaries who did not deploy shows equal rates through 1998. Although this data indicates no unexpected excess of leukemia among Gulf veterans, interpretation must be qualified by the recognition that we do not know how many Gulf War veterans altogether have developed one of the various types of leukemia. We do not know how many veterans were found to have these diseases after they left military service and obtained their medical care from other sources, such as the Department of Veterans Affairs and civilian practitioners and hospitals. More than 75 percent of Gulf War veterans have left the service since 1991.

The various forms of leukemia occur in all segments of our society, including military personnel. We would recommend that you discuss the details of your concerns with your personal physician, who can describe what is known about the frequency of leukemia and the suspected causes. If your leukemia had its onset while you were on active duty, then it should be considered to be service-connected, regardless of the specific cause.
If you need assistance with your veterans' benefits, we would encourage you to obtain the advice of one of the veterans service organizations, such as the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Disabled American Veterans or AMVETS.

Q. I read somewhere that there is an increase of testicular cancer among Gulf War veterans? Is this true?

A. The available information gives no hint that there is an increased rate of testicular cancer among Gulf War veterans. Among Gulf War veterans, the rate (8.6 per 100,000 person-years) of hospitalization in military hospitals for testicular cancer in the years 1990-1999 was slightly lower than the rate (9.4) for contemporaries who did not deploy to the Gulf. Although this information does not tell us about veterans who have left the military, it at least suggests that there is not a problem. Testicular cancer is most common among young adults (ages 20-40). The military treats many cases of this cancer because service members are predominantly young, adult males.

Testicular cancer is one of those cancers for which no environmental causes have been identified. The risk of this cancer is known to be higher among men who are born with an undescended testicle and among men with rare hormone and chromosome disorders (testicular feminization syndromes and Klinefelter's syndrome), but most cases do not have any of these risk factors.