No evidence to link cancer rates to Agent Orange: report
There's no evidence that rates of cancer in the area around CFB Gagetown in New Brunswickare linked to the use of Agent Orange, according to a report released Tuesday.
Veterans of CFB Gagetownwere anxiously awaitingthereport on the use of herbicides at the base, as it could make or break their case for compensation.
The report is part of the federal fact-finding review led by co-ordinator Dr. Dennis Furlong on whether Agent Orange and other chemicals may have led to cancer and other illnesses in the area.
Dr. Judith Guernsey of Dalhousie University said she looked at existing research todetermine which types of cancers are linked to Agent Orange and other herbicides. Then she looked at whether there were higher rates of those cancers in people near the base.
The Gagetown-area rates of soft tissue sarcoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, thetwo types most linked to herbicides, were virtually identical to rates aroundthe province asa whole.
Breast cancer,bone cancer,brain cancer and cancer of the larynx did show up more often in the area, but in many of those examples, onlytwo orthree cases led to the higher rate, and there's no scientific consensus that herbicides lead to those types of cancer, Guernsey said.
She said rates for some forms of cancer were actually lower in the Gagetownarea than in the province overall.
Guernsey said she can't rule out that exposure did lead to greater risk for cancer because thereis preliminary evidence of alink between some herbicides and breast cancer. However, she saidit would take a much longer,larger and more expensive study to come up with firm conclusions.
The U.S. military testedAgent Orangeand other combat defoliants at the base in the 1960s, and other herbicides were used there to get rid of brush on the base.
Two previous reports have undermined the case that veterans and others have been making to Ottawa for compensation. One found it was unlikely that most base workers suffered any long-term risk to their health. The other declared the base safe for current personnel.
More than 2,000 people have signed on to a lawsuit launched in 2005 against the federal government.Members of the Agent Orange Association of Canada said a negative result from the report would limit the number of people who qualify for a federal settlement package, and further damage the case for compensation.
The package was promised by Veterans Affairs Minister Greg Thompson for later this year, and is expected to be between $20,000 and $24,000 per person.