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Diseases Associated with Ionizing Radiation Exposure

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 diseases related to ionizing radiation

Doctor looking at MRIs

For Veterans who participated in a radiation-risk activity during service (including "Atomic Veterans"), 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)

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.

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 depends on how much radiation the Veteran received and other factors, such as the period of time between exposure to radiation and the development of the disease. 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.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)

VA presumes amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) diagnosed in all Veterans who had 90 days or more continuous active military service is related to their service, although ALS is not related to radiation exposure.

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