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Diseases Associated with Ionizing Radiation Exposure

Read about presumptive conditions for ionizing radiation.

VA has recognized certain diseases as related to ionizing radiation exposure during military service. Veterans may be eligible for disability compensation and health care for these diseases. Their survivors also may be eligible for survivors' benefits.

Presumptive conditions for ionizing radiation

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For Veterans who participated in a radiation-risk activity during service, VA assumes that certain cancers are related to their exposure. We call these "presumptive diseases."

  • Cancers of the bile ducts, bone, brain, breast, colon, esophagus, gall bladder, liver (primary site, but not if cirrhosis or hepatitis B is indicated), lung (including bronchiolo-alveolar cancer), pancreas, pharynx, ovary, salivary gland, small intestine, stomach, thyroid, urinary tract (kidney/renal, pelvis, urinary bladder, and urethra)
  • Leukemia (except chronic lymphocytic leukemia)
  • Lymphomas (except Hodgkin’s disease)
  • Multiple myeloma (cancer of plasma cells)
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These Veterans don't have to prove a connection between these diseases and their service to be eligible for disability compensation. Their survivors also may be eligible for survivors' benefits if the Veteran dies as the result of one of these diseases.

Radiation Risk Activity

The above list of presumptive diseases applies to Veterans who served in any of the following “radiation risk activities”:

  • Radiological cleanup of Enewetak Atoll (1977- 1980).
  • U.S. Air Force plutonium cleanup mission near Palomares, Spain (1966).
  • U.S. Air Force plutonium cleanup mission at Thule, Greenland (1968).
  • Participated in the occupation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan between Aug. 6, 1945, and July 1, 1946.
  • Were prisoners of war in Japan near Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.
  • Participated in atmospheric nuclear weapons tests conducted primarily in Nevada and the Pacific Ocean between 1945 and 1962.
    Read fact sheets on the tests from the Nuclear Test Personnel Review office.
  • Participated in underground nuclear weapons testing at:
    • Amchitka Island, Alaska before Jan. 1, 1974.
    • Nevada Test Site for at least 250 days from January 1, 1963, through December 31, 1992.
  • Service at one of the following gaseous diffusion plants for at least 250 days before Feb. 1, 1992: Paducah, Kentucky; Portsmouth, Ohio; or K25 in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

Other diseases associated with radiation exposure

VA recognizes that the following diseases are possibly caused by exposure to ionizing radiation during service:

  • All cancers
  • Non-malignant thyroid nodular disease
  • Parathyroid adenoma
  • Posterior subcapsular cataracts
  • Tumors of the brain and central nervous system

Eligibility for disability compensation or survivors' benefits are based on radiation type, radiation dose, and timing of the onset of illness. VA decides these claims on a case-by-case basis.

VA also will consider the possibility that other diseases not listed above were caused by radiation, if supported by medical or scientific evidence. To be eligible for compensation, VA must be able to establish that it is at least as likely as not that a Veteran’s disease was caused by his/her exposure to radiation during military service.



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