By Anna E. Mazzucco, PhD and Diana Zuckerman, PhD, President of the Cancer Prevention and Treatment Fund
Updated March 24, 2014
The contaminated water at the Camp Lejeune Marine Corps base is a national disgrace that has jeopardized the health of many adults and children. Now the government’s focus needs to be on assisting all those who have been harmed – and that should include preventing cancer and other diseases in those who are not currently sick but at risk because of their exposure years ago. Righting the wrong that was done to our armed service families requires more than research and passing the buck – it requires a plan of action based on solid scientific information.
The Cancer Prevention and Treatment Fund expresses its strong support for the adults and children who have been harmed by contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base. This unprecedented environmental disaster has been a tragic disservice to the courageous men and women of our military.
The new analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that pregnant women who were more exposed to contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune were 4 times as likely to give birth to children with serious birth defects such as spina bifida, compared to women who were less exposed. There was also a slight increase in childhood cancers such as leukemia among these children. A study published (reported) in 2014 found increased risk of death among Camp Lejeune residents from several cancers including kidney, liver, cervical, esophageal, multiple myeloma and Hodgkin lymphoma, in comparison to residents of another military base which did not have contaminated water. Previous reports have indicated that men living or working on the base from the mid-1950s until 1987 were much more likely to develop breast cancer than men in the general population, but that study has not yet been completed. Breast cancer is a rare occurrence among men, and is especially dangerous because men often do not recognize the symptoms or seek treatment in a timely manner. In addition, men with breast cancer often experience unique and significant physical, social and psychological issues.
The Cancer Prevention and Treatment Fund is dedicated to helping children and adults reduce their risks of getting all types of cancer, and assists them in choosing the safest and most effective treatments. We use research-based information to encourage more effective programs, policies and medical treatments. We strongly urge the federal government to continue investigating the link between exposure to trichloroethylene (TCE) and other known contaminants in the Camp Lejeune drinking water, and an increased risk for diseases among children and adults. It is likely that the exposures could cause several different types of cancer, but those other cancers would not be as noticeable as male breast cancer, since that is so rare.