Federal scientists studying drinking water contamination at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina have found a possible connection between pollutants and cases of male breast cancer among those who lived on the Marine Corps base.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry observed an accelerated onset of male breast cancer among those stationed at Camp Lejeune compared to other bases.

Camp Lejeune was the site of one of the worst public drinking water contaminations in the nation’s history. According to scientists, for at least 30 years, ending in 1987, the drinking water was tainted with dangerous chemicals.

Up to a million marines, sailors and family members may have been exposed to pollutants, including more than 14,000 Floridians who have signed a Marine Corps healthy registry.

The unusual incidence of male breast cancer at the base was first reported in 2009.

Scientists studied 444 men before 1969 who were in the marines and have been treated for certain cancers at the Department of Veterans Affairs. They found that 30 who were stationed at Camp Lejeune and were also later diagnosed with breast cancer.

The numbers suggested a possible association between male breast cancer and cumulative exposure to a range of chemicals found I drinking water, including solvents.

Male breast cancer is a rare cancer with an incidence of about 1 in every 100,000 men.

Scientists caution that the study is limited by the relatively small number of cases examined and other shortfalls, including that fact that not all veterans seek care that the VA. Further research is necessary.

Camp Lejeune drinking water was contaminated by a variety of sources through its history. One of the more significant points of contamination was a fuel depot at the base whose underground tanks leaked hundreds of thousands of gallons of gasoline through the years. 

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Gerry Oginski
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