Study finds evidence of a link between thyroid disease and Agent Orange exposure

Recent research has found that although Vietnam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange during the war do not appear to be at a higher risk of thyroid cancer, there may be a significantly higher incidence of Graves' disease among that segment of the population.

The link between the herbicide and thyroid health has been a subject of medical inquiry for a long time since dioxin - the main ingredient in Agent Orange - is chemically similar to the hormones produced by the thyroid. Graves' disease has come to researchers’ attention because it is characterized by overactivity of the thyroid, leading it to produce more of the hormones that regulate mood, weight, metabolism, and energy levels.

The study was presented at the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists annual meeting in Boston by Dr Ajay Varanasi, an endocrinology fellow in the University of Buffalo Department of Medicine. He said that the results of the survey of medical records of upstate New York veterans born between 1925 and 1953 showed that the disease was three times more common among individuals who encountered the dioxin-containing chemical as opposed to those who were not exposed.

However, Varanasi added that "interestingly, hypothyroidism [lower than normal thyroid hormone level] was less common in the exposed group."