Friday, March 12, 2010

VA Publicizes Ongoing Research for Gulf War Veterans

soldier carrying weapon patrolling the Al Sudeek District

The VA’s Environmental Epidemiology Service (EES) conducts original research studies on the health of Veterans, including research on potential exposures to environmental hazards during military service.

EES also maintains databases and registries of Veterans’ exposures and health care utilization, which provide unique data for much of the research.

Learn about upcoming and ongoing research studies on:


Longitudinal Health Study of Gulf War Era Veterans

Investigators: Han Kang, Dr.P.H.; Clare Mahan, Ph.D.; Seth Eisen, M.D.; Charles Engel, Jr., M.D., M.P.H.

This is a follow-up study of 30,000 Veterans (15,000 Gulf War Veterans and 15,000 non-Gulf War military personnel) who were in service during 1990-1991. It is one of the largest scientific research studies ever undertaken on the health of Veterans. The goal is to find out how the health of Gulf War Veterans changes over time and if it is better, worse, or the same as non-Gulf War Veterans ten or more years after the war. To achieve this goal, researchers mailed survey questionnaires, conducted telephone interviews, and reviewed medical records.

Specific areas under study are chronic medical conditions, PTSD and other psychological conditions, functional status, mortality, general health perceptions, health care utilization, and VA disability compensation between the two Veteran groups. Research findings from this study are currently being compiled and published in scientific journals, and presented to the scientific community.


Estimates of Cancer Prevalence in Gulf Veterans Using State Registries

Han Kang, Dr.P.H.; Clare Mahan, Ph.D.; Paul Levine, M.D.; Samuel Simmens, Ph.D.; Heather Young, Ph.D.; Jessica Maillard, M.P.H.

Although there were relatively few combat casualties in the 1990-1991 Gulf War, many Veterans were subjected to a wide variety of natural and man-made environmental exposures, some of which are considered potential human carcinogens. Because of concerns about increased cancer risks among these Veterans, Congress asked VA to address the question of potential cancer risk among Gulf War Veterans.

Researchers are evaluating the hypothesis that 1990-1991 Gulf War Veterans are at an increased risk of developing specific cancers compared to non-Gulf War Veterans. The objectives of the study are

  • to assess and compare the prevalence, distribution, and characteristics of cancer among approximately 620,000 Gulf War Veterans to 750,000 non-Gulf War Veterans; and
  • to assess demographic, military, and in-theater exposure characteristics associated with the cancer.

Gulf War and non-Gulf War Veterans with a diagnosis of cancer from 1991 to 2003 are being identified through record linkage of the Veterans’ database with files supplied by state cancer registries. This study will produce information with adequate statistical power to address the question on whether or not there is an excess cancer risk associated with the 1990-1991 Gulf War.


Post War Mortality from Neurologic Diseases in Gulf War Veterans

Investigators: Han Kang, Dr.P.H.; Shannon Boyer, M.P.H.; Tim Bullman, M.S.; Mitchell Wallin, M.D., M.P.H.

We investigated the risk of post-war mortality from neurological disease among 620,000 Gulf War Veterans and 750,000 non-Gulf War Veterans. Gulf War Veterans may be at increased risk for adverse health outcomes, including neurological disorders, as a result of their Gulf War service. Specifically, there is concern that Gulf War Veterans may be at increased risk for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, or brain cancer. These risks may be related to potentially hazardous environmental exposures during the war, such as oil well fire smoke, chemical and biological warfare agents, prophylactic agents against chemical and biological warfare, multiple vaccinations, depleted uranium, pesticides, and endemic infectious diseases.

Since our last follow-up in 1997, there have been few changes in mortality rates among Gulf War and non-Gulf Veterans. Controlling for oil well fire smoke exposure, Army Gulf War Veterans who were potentially exposed to nerve agents at Khamisiyah had a higher mortality rate from brain cancer compared to Army Veterans who were not considered exposed. The risk of death due to motor vehicle accidents is still higher among female Gulf War Veterans compared to female non-Gulf War Veterans, though no longer statistically significant among male Gulf War Veterans.

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