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Is the Increased Incidence of Lymphoma in Vietnam Veterans due to an Undescribed Infectious Agent?

Joseph J. Drabick, MC
Arch Intern Med. 1991;151(7):1462-1463. doi:10.1001/archinte.1991.00400070200038.
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To the Editor.—  I read with interest the combined reports of the Selected Cancers Cooperative Study Group.1 These well-designed and executed studies demonstrate a statistically significant increased risk for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in Vietnam veterans relative to a control cohort. This risk appears to be independent of the use of Agent Orange.1 The cause of this increased risk remains obscure, although the authors present several speculative hypotheses. They note that the veterans may possess some characteristic(s) related to service in Vietnam, such as a viral infection, which could explain the risk. I agree that this is a quite reasonable explanation for the increased risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in these individuals.Southeast Asia could be the home of an as yet undescribed oncogenic retrovirus with a low degree of disease expression after infection. A certain percentage of individuals exposed to the putative agent would be infected, and a much smaller


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