(HealthDay News) — Agent Orange (2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzodioxin) exposure is associated with increased incidence of nonmelanotic invasive skin cancer, according to research published in the February issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

Mark W. Clemens, MD, from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and colleagues retrospectively reviewed the medical records of 100 consecutive male patients (mean age, 65.7 years) who enrolled in the Agent Orange registry at the Veterans Affairs Hospital of Washington, DC, between August of 2009 and January of 2010.

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The researchers found that 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzodioxin exposure occurred in 56% by living or working in contaminated areas, in 30% by actively spraying it, and in 14% by traveling in contaminated areas. Nonmelanotic invasive skin cancer was seen in 51% of patients, chloracne in 43%, and other malignancies in 26% (including prostate, colon, or bladder cancer). 

The national age-matched incidence rate for nonmelanotic invasive skin cancer was significantly lower than that seen in the study population (23.8% vs. 51%; P < 0.001). 

A decreased incidence of the cancer was seen in those with a high Fitzpatrick skin type score (P = 0.010) and dark eye color (P = 0.036), but exposure by active spraying (P = 0.003) and presence of chloracne (P < 0.001) were associated with increased nonmelanotic invasive skin cancer incidence rates.

“2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzodioxin exposure appears to be associated with the development of nonmelanotic invasive skin cancer,” the researchers wrote.


  1. Clemens MW, Kochuba AL, Carter ME, et al. Association between Agent Orange Exposure and Nonmelanotic Invasive Skin Cancer: A Pilot Study. Plastic Reconstr Surg. 2014;133(2):432-437.