Military Burn Pits and Presumptive Conditions: Cancer

While the connection between burn pit exposure and cancer still needs to be researched, the VA considers certain types of cancer as presumptive conditions, offering veterans who were exposed to burn pits disability compensation. In this article, we will discuss the kinds of cancer that are considered presumptive under the PACT Act for burn pit exposure. 

Exposure to fire pits while serving in the military has been linked to an elevated risk of a variety of health issues, including cancer. From roughly 2010 to 2015, these burn pits were used at military facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan to burn different waste products such as rubbish, food waste, medical waste, plastics, cardboard, heavy metals, and vehicle components in the open air. Jet fuel was frequently used to start these fires, releasing a deadly cocktail of chemicals and substances into the air.

Many veterans who served in burn pit bases have claimed health problems such as cancer and respiratory diseases. These flames’ smoke contained a variety of hazardous chemicals, including lead, mercury, benzene, hydrocarbons, dioxins, and volatile organic compounds. 

While it has not been established that burn pits directly cause cancer, it is known that exposure to these toxic substances is detrimental and can lead to the development of a variety of health issues, including cancer.

Burn Pit Cancer and PACT Act

The Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022 or PACT Act, was a bipartisan bill that aimed to expand healthcare access for more than 3.5 million veterans who were exposed to toxins through burn pits while serving in the military after September 11, 2001. 

This bill would have added many malignancies to the list of diseases eligible for federal health care coverage, recognizing the probable relationship between burn pit exposure and cancer, among other health concerns. While further study is needed to prove a clear causal association, the law aimed to give care and assistance to veterans who reported health concerns as a result of their exposure to fire pits.

Types of Cancer As Presumptive Conditions

According to the VA, veterans can get benefits for a list of cancers that are considered presumptive due to burn pit exposure. These are the conditions listed on the VA’s official page –

Brain, Neck, Head, and Nervous System Cancers

These types of cancers are considered presumptive by the VA (note that the list is incomplete):

  • Brain and brain stem cancers:
    • Diffuse astrocytoma
    • Pilocytic astrocytoma
    • Secondary glioblastoma
    • Anaplastic astrocytoma
    • Malignant pineal gland
    • Ependymomas (papillary, cellular, RELA fusion-positive, clear cell, and tanycytic)
    • Subependymal giant cell astrocytoma
    • Mixed gliomas (Oligoastrocytoma)
    • Oligodendrogliomas
    • Pineal astrocytic tumors
    • Primary glioblastoma
    • Brain stem glioma
    • Pituitary carcinoma
  • Ear and eye cancers:
    • Neuroendocrine tumors of the orbit
    • Eye and ocular adnexa cancers ( iris, eyelid, retina, vitreous, optic disc, ciliary body, and orbit tumors)
    • Rhabdomyosarcoma
    • Carcinoid tumors of the orbit and ocular adnexa
    • Ceruminous adenoma
    • Melanomas of the eye (conjunctival melanoma, choroidal melanoma, and iris melanoma)
  • Neck, mouth, and throat cancers:
    • Pharyngeal cancer
    • Thyroid cancer
    • Tongue cancer
    • Oral cavity squamous cell carcinoma
    • Hypopharyngeal cancer
    • Oropharyngeal cancer 
    • Squamous cell carcinoma of the skin
    • Salivary gland cancer 
    • Basal cell carcinoma of the skin
    • Melanoma
    • Jaw cancer
    • Laryngeal cancer
  • Nose cancers: 
    • Keratinizing undifferentiated carcinoma
    • Undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma
    • Neuroendocrine carcinoma
    • Olfactory neuroblastoma
    • Fibrosarcoma
    • Leiomyosarcoma
    • Non-keratinizing undifferentiated carcinoma
    • Lymphoma
    • Squamous cell carcinoma
    • Rhabdomyosarcoma
    • Squamous cell carcinoma
    • Plasmacytoma
    • Squamous cell carcinoma
    • Adenocarcinoma
    • Adenoid cystic cancer
    • Melanoma
  • Sarcomas:
    • Fibromatosis
    • Dermatofibrosarcoma
    • Ectomesenchymoma
    • Liposarcoma
    • Malignant ganglioma, schwannoma and mesenchymoma
    • Low-grade fibromyxoid sarcoma
    • Rhabdomyosarcoma
    • Angiosarcoma
    • Solitary fibrous tumor
    • Vascular sarcoma
    • Leiomyosarcoma
    • Ewing sarcoma (endocrine)
    • Fibrosarcoma
    • Hemangioendothelioma and hemangiopericytoma
    • Osteosarcoma
  • Spinal cord cancers:
    • Lymphoma
    • Malignant schwannoma
    • Multiple myeloma
    • Osteosarcoma
    • Solitary plasmacytoma
    • Chondrosarcoma
    • Chordoma
    • Ewing’s sarcoma
    • Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor

Gastrointestinal Cancers

These gastrointestinal cancers are considered presumptive:

  • Anal cancer: 
    • Melanoma
    • Squamous cell cancer
    • Basal cell cancer
    • Carcinoma in situ or “Bowen’s disease” 
    • Adenocarcinoma
  • Colorectal cancer or colon cancer:
    • Gastrointestinal stromal tumor
    • Carcinoid
    • Lymphoma
    • Adenocarcinoma
  • Esophageal cancer: 
    • Squamous cell carcinoma
    • Adenocarcinoma
  • Liver cancer:
    • Hepatocellular carcinoma of the liver and intrahepatic tract
  • Pancreatic cancer:
    • Adenocarcinoma of the pancreas
  • Salivary gland cancers:
    • Adenoid cystic carcinoma
    • Polymorphous adenocarcinoma
    • Acinic cell carcinoma
    • Secretory carcinoma
    • Adenocarcinoma not otherwise specified or “NOS” 
    • Mucoepidermoid carcinoma
  • Small intestine cancers:
    • Adenocarcinoma
    • Gastrointestinal stromal tumor
    • Carcinoid tumor
    • Lymphoma
    • Sarcoma
  • Spleen cancers:
    • Primary tumors of the spleen
  • Stomach cancers:
    • Diffuse adenocarcinoma
    • Intestinal carcinoma
    • Lymphoma
    • Gastrointestinal stromal tumor
    • Carcinoid tumors
  • Tongue cancer:
    • Polymorphous low-grade carcinoma
    • Mucoepidermoid carcinoma
    • Adenoid cystic carcinoma

Kidney cancers

These types of kidney cancers are considered presumptive:

  • Renal cell carcinoma:
    • Collecting duct
    • Clear cell papillary
    • Papillary
    • Medullary
    • Clear cell
    • Chromophobe
    • Unclassified types
  • Non-renal cell carcinoma:
    • Renal sarcoma and Wilms tumor)


These cancers are considered presumptive:

  • B-cell lymphoma:
    • Diffuse B-cell lymphoma
    • Other non-Hodgkin mature B-cell lymphoma
    • Follicular B-cell lymphoma
    • Small cell B-cell lymphoma
  • Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Anaplastic large cell lymphoma
  • Burkitt lymphoma
  • Lymphoblastic lymphoma
  • Mantle-cell lymphoma
  • Mycosis fungoides
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • T-cell lymphoma


These melanomas are considered presumptive:

  • Melanomas of the eye:
    • Conjunctival melanoma
    • Choroidal melanoma
    • Iris melanoma
  • Melanomas of the skin:
    • Acral lentiginous melanoma
    • Nodular melanoma
    • Lentigo maligna melanoma
    • Superficial spreading melanoma
  • Mucosal melanoma (melanomas that originate in tissues that line internal areas of the body)

Pancreatic cancers

These pancreatic cancers are considered presumptive:

  • Exocrine pancreatic cancers:
    • Adenocarcinoma
    • Colloid carcinoma
    • Adenosquamous carcinoma
    • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Neuroendocrine pancreatic cancer

Reproductive cancers

These reproductive cancers are considered presumptive:

  • Female reproductive cancers:
    • Breast cancer
    • Uterine cancer
    • Vaginal cancer
    • Cervical cancer
    • Ovarian cancer
    • Vulvar cancer
  • Male reproductive cancers:
    • Prostate cancer
    • Penile cancer
    • Testicular cancer

Respiratory Cancers

These respiratory cancers are considered presumptive:

  • Bronchial cancers:
    • Large-cell carcinoma
    • Adenocarcinoma
    • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Laryngeal cancers:
    • Glottis, subglottis, laryngeal neuroendocrine,or supraglottis neoplasm
    • Lymphoma
    • Plasmacytoma
    • Sarcoma
    • Chondrosarcoma
    • Adenocarcinoma
    • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Lung cancers:
    • Sarcomatoid carcinoma of the lung
    • Squamous cell carcinoma (epidermoid carcinoma)
    • Adenocarcinoma
    • Typical and atypical carcinoid of the lung
    • Unclassified carcinoma
    • Combined small cell carcinoma
    • Small cell carcinoma (oat cell cancer)
    • Adenosquamous carcinoma of the lung
    • Pleomorphic carcinoma
    • Salivary gland carcinoma
    • Large cell carcinoma
    • Carcinoid tumor
    • Sarcomatoid carcinoma of the lung
  • Nasopharyngeal cancers:
    • Non-keratinizing undifferentiated carcinoma
    • Keratinizing undifferentiated carcinoma
    • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Paranasal sinus and nasal cavity cancers:
    • Adenoid cystic cancer
    • Olfactory neuroblastoma
    • Lymphoma
    • Leiomyosarcoma
    • Squamous cell carcinoma
    • Adenocarcinoma
    • Neuroendocrine carcinoma
    • Plasmacytoma
    • Melanoma
    • Fibrosarcoma undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma
    • Rhabdomyosarcoma
  • Pharyngeal cancers:
    • Basaloid squamous cell carcinoma
    • Non-keratinizing squamous cell carcinoma
    • Keratinizing squamous cell carcinoma
  • Throat cancers:
    • Squamous cell carcinoma
    • Lymphoepithelioma
    • Lymphoma
    • Tonsillar cancer
    • Minor salivary gland tumors
    • Salivary gland cancer
  • Trachea cancers:
    • Adenocarcinoma of the trachea
    • Squamous cell carcinoma of the trachea


The VA offers a 100% disability rating for cancer until it goes into remission. If you need assistance during your claim process, the experts at VA Disability Coach can help by reviewing your application.