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Breast Cancer in Men? Not that Uncommon for Some Ex-Marines

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According to a recent Rock Center with Brian Williams (NBC News) story, breast cancer in men is rare, compared with breast cancer in women. Breast cancer in men who have lived at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, however, is more common, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC estimates between 500,000 and 1 million people were exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987. The U.S. Marine Corps began testing water at Camp Lejeune in 1980; one sample of water tested apparently contained 280 times the normal amount of Trichloroethylene (TCE) a hydrocarbon that can cause cancer. At some point the TCE and other chemicals, like benzene, found their way into well water at Camp Lejeune. (Rock Center, NBC News, 2/22/13)

Some chemicals found in the water reportedly were linked to a dry cleaners (now closed), but other chemicals were directly attributable to the Marine Corps—including contamination from “leaking fuel storage tanks,” i.e., contamination from over 1 million gallons of leaking fuel. (Rock Center, NBC News, 2/22/13) The U.S. Marine Corps continues to maintain that “reliable scientific evidence is lacking” for the chemical contamination, yet experts in oncogenecity and the environmental pollution apparently disagree. According to Dr. Richard Clapp of the University of Massachusetts, the contamination found in the water at Camp Lejeune was the “highest” he had ever seen, anywhere. (Rock Center, NBC News, 2/22/13)

While the Marines have not relented in their belief about the purity of the water at Camp Lejeune, Congress has moved to help veterans who are certain and can prove that the water there has made them ill. Diseases Lejeune veterans and their families have experienced in greater than average incidences include leukemia (including in children), cancers of the kidney, lung, bladder and breast. Although benefits to Camp Lejeune male breast cancer victims have not been as forthcoming as benefits to victims of other cancers, public attention is now being drawn to the plight of these men who anticipate a new CDC report from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry may help justify their claims.

Most companies or industries accused of polluting groundwater with these toxic hydrocarbons defend the cases or claims by arguing there is no proof (direct link) that the disease or illness affecting the victim was caused by the specific toxin(s). They get away with this because most of the cancers or illnesses can be caused by other environmental factors (or even bad genes), and the toxins at issue, like TCE, do not leave a marker (like an asbestos fiber, for example) behind in the body. Thus, the industries argue the medical science has not identified a way to state with certainty that the cancer or illness was caused by the toxic exposure (that they were responsible for). What they fail to argue, however, is that the statistical evidence and/or epidemiology supports the toxic exposures as the cause. In other words, generally speaking, these "cancer clusters" in locations such as Camp Lejeune, are proof that the toxic groundwater consumed by the former Marines who were stationed there was the cause. The medical evidence and science gets complicated in these cases and in the litigation, and the industries (or Marines) can so muddy the water (no pun intended) that proving the claims becomes difficult, despite the common sense conclusions one may reach.

For notifications regarding Camp Lejeune Historic Drinking Water, those interested may call 1(877)261-9782 to register to receive updated information.

For the Marine's response to the NBC story, visit: http://www.nbcnews.com/id/50900109