Dermatologists at University of Southern California's School of Medicine say World War II veterans who served in the Pacific apparently are twice as likely to contract skin cancer as veterans who served in Europe.
Drs. Richard Bennett and Mandy Ramani base their finding on a study of 370 World II servicemen who contracted three types of skin cancer between 1979 and 1989."Although the Veterans Administration has not acknowledged liability for these patients, our study underscores the fact that many WWII servicemen's skin cancers were service-related," Bennett said in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
The USC researchers noted roughly the same number of vets served in Pacific and Europe, but of the 370 skin cancer patients they surveyed, 66 percent participated in the war against Japan and only 34 percent served in Europe.
Bennett and Ramani blame the excess Pacific cancers on the high sunlight and humidity the vets were exposed to, factors that are known causes of skin cancer.
"Persons who had heavy sun exposure in the South Pacific or in Vietnam should be counseled to avoid sun exposure in the future," the researchers said.
They also advised servicemen currently stationed in the tropics to avoid sunburns and use sunscreen lotions.