Monday, September 28, 2009

With all this talk about breast cancer

With this ad for breast cancer awareness making some buzz lately I couldn't help but have the desire to bring this article up.

In a pretty odd development it seems that a group of 20 men have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Now this might not sound like much if you are aware that men can develop the disease however there is one common thread the links these men together: all 20 of these men are marines or sons of marines that were stationed at the Camp Lejeune marine base in Jacksonville, North Carolina during the 60s, 70s, or 80s. And there are government documents showing high levels of toxic chemicals during those three decades.

These men have since gone all over the country and possibly the world. Some off to college and then to the workforce. Some straight to the workforce. Some into their own military careers. The only thing that links these men from various walks of life is that they all lived at Camp Lejuene at some point in their lives and were exposed to dangerous chemicals during that 30 year span.

However the military is not so quick to believe the water supply at the base is to blame for the cancer cases.
Starting in 1980, tests showed drinking water at Camp Lejeune had been "highly contaminated" with solvents. Several wells that supplied water to the base were found to have been contaminated in 1984 and 1985, and were promptly taken out of service after the pollutants were found, the Marine Corps told CNN. (That Marine Corp link is a result page for searching "Marine Corps" on the CNN website.)

Among the chemicals later identified in the drinking water were trichloroethylene, a degreaser; benzene; and the dry cleaning solvent perchloroethylene. Two independent studies have found no link between water contamination and later illnesses, according to the Marine Corps. But the men facing a debilitating and possibly lethal disease don't buy it.
Regardless of where these cases of cancer came from it is beyond a doubt that these men have a dangerous road ahead of them and many of them will more than likely succumb to it.

In 2004 The Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department (still under the Bush Administration) performed an investigation at the base. But the odd part is that one of the EPA inspectors, Tyler Amon, suspected that some who personnel who were investigated where coached and that information was being withheld yet Justice Department chose not to file charges.

And to make matters work since so far these cases of cancer are being treated as not "service related" the men in question cannot receive any assistance for the treatments and surgeries they will need.

So why am I talking about this you ask? Because of one line from this article:
[Jim]Fontella said that at the time of his diagnosis, he didn't know men could get breast cancer.
Yes there are people out there that still think that men cannot develop breast cancer. Mind you the ratio of breast cancer is about 1 man to 100 women but that one man is important right? So maybe someone reading this will learn that men do have a chance to develop breast cancer.


Rachel Cervantes said...

Danny, cancer is not gender-specific. Because breast cancer happens most often in women does not negate the importance of it, nor the fact that it's a tragedy whenever it happens, to whomever it happens. I wold like to know what was the cause of this unusually large number of victims from North Carolina. If you run across the precise numbers (how many men, percentage or population, etc) I'll try to run a statistical analysis.

Danny said...

Of course its not gender specific however that does not change the fact that there are people out there that actually do think that men can't develop it (if I understand correctly its partly because women have much more breast tissues then men have pectoral tissue). And while I've only seen it once or twice I've seen stories of men with breast cancer being teased and accused of faking it because they aren't women. That plus the fact that you don't hear about men with breast cancer and the post I did before it about "Save the Boobs" I thought it would be worth bringing up.

About the exact data its going to be hard to pin down exact numbers because of the constant shifting military personnel do in their careers. Also it appears to be affecting men who lived on the base in a 30 year span which ended about 20 years ago. So far we have about 20 men of the probably thousands who have come through that bases in that 30 year span. There could be more men who have already died or have not heard about this possible link yet.

As for the case it is suspected that the drinking water supply was contaminated with high levels of toxic chemicals and solvents (the CNN post I linked to has the names of some of the chemicals). As of right now the EPA and some independent review groups have checked the based and not found enough to take action against any base officials.

The thing is with it being only 20 known men out of the thousands that lived there in that 30 year span so there MIGHT be a chance that their cases are not related.

Rachel Cervantes said...

Well, anything is possible, of course. That's why a statistical analysis might help. It would give some sense of how likely or unlikely such an occurrence is.