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Study on health of Veterans deployed to K-2

Military Exposures & Your Health: Information for Veterans who servedthe gulf war era and their families

Karshi-Khanabad Air Base, also known as K-2, was a Soviet-era air base, one square mile in size, in southeastern Uzbekistan near the border of Tajikistan. It was used by U.S. Army, Air Force, and Marine forces from 2001-2005.

Veterans who were deployed to K-2 may be concerned about health effects from various exposures, including jet fuel, volatile organic compounds, particulate matter and dust, and depleted uranium. Learn more about environmental exposures during service at K-2.

In 2015, the Department of Defense (DoD) conducted a study to look at cancer outcomes among active duty service members deployed to K-2. Using healthcare claims data from the military health system, DoD researchers found a higher risk of certain cancers, such as malignant melanoma and cancers of the blood forming cells such as leukemia and lymphoma, but the results were based on only a few cases of each type of cancer and failed to provide a definitive answer on risk.

As a result, VA’s Post Deployment Health Services and DoD will be conducting a broader study on the health of Veterans who deployed to K-2. VA and DoD hope this new study will provide more conclusive scientific evidence on the relationship between various diseases and environmental exposures at K-2.

First, VA and DoD are working to identify those who deployed to K-2. Then, researchers will identify two comparison groups: 1) Veterans and service members who deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) between 2001 – 2005 but never deployed to K-2, and 2) Veterans and service members who were on active duty between 2001 – 2005 but never deployed to K-2 or OIF. The next step will be to compile healthcare utilization data from the military health system and from VA that will be used to assess and compare the occurrence of various diseases between study groups. In addition, researchers will review cause-of-death data to compare rates of death among the K-2-deployed, OIF-deployed, and non-deployed Veterans. Researchers will also compare rates of death among those deployed to K-2 to the general U.S. population.

The researchers will mail a letter to Veterans who deployed to K-2 to invite them to receive a health examination at their local VA medical center. These Veterans will need to contact their nearest Environmental Health Coordinator to schedule the exam. The exam may include laboratory tests, such as a depleted uranium test, and other evaluations. Depleted uranium kits will be sent to the Baltimore VA’s Toxic Exposure Fragment Surveillance Center for processing. In addition, Veterans who have health concerns that they believe may be related to service at K-2 are encouraged to file a claim for disability compensation. This claim will require a separate exam by Compensation and Pension and will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

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