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Male Breast Cancer Results

Evaluation of contaminated drinking water and male breast cancer at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina: a case control study

Study Purpose

Some residents who lived at Camp Lejeune from the 1950s through 1985 were exposed to contaminated drinking water.

The purpose of this study was to determine if Marines who were exposed to contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune were more likely to have male breast cancer.

Drinking water at Camp Lejeune was contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including trichloroethylene (TCE), tetrachloroethylene (PCE), benzene, 1,2-dichloroethylene (DCE), and vinyl chloride.

What Was Studied

The study included 71 men with breast cancer (called “cases”) and 373 men who had other types of cancer (called “controls”). ATSDR used the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) cancer registry to identify these cases and controls. ATSDR selected the controls from cancers that are not associated with solvent exposure; this included 270 men with skin cancer, 71 with mesothelioma, and 32 with bone cancer.

The VA’s cancer registry maintains information from eligible veterans who were diagnosed with or treated for cancer at a VA clinic. Eligible study members were male Marines born before January 1, 1969 and diagnosed with cancer or treated for cancer at a VA medical facility from January 1, 1995, (the start of the VA’s cancer registry) to May 5, 2013 (the latest date that complete medical records were available). Marines born after January 1, 1969 were not old enough to serve during the period of contamination at Camp Lejeune (i.e. they were younger than 17 years of age by the end of 1985 when the contamination ended).

Features of this Study

Because of the lack of existing information, ATSDR used extensive water modeling to reconstruct exposures before 1987. The water modeling identified where and when certain areas at Camp Lejeune received contaminated drinking water. ATSDR used the water modeling results to determine which Marines were exposed to contaminated water during their service.

ATSDR combined the water modeling results with additional information from personnel records, base family housing records, and records that indicated where Marine units were barracked. ATSDR used all of this information to estimate contaminant-specific residential exposure levels for each of the cases and controls in the study who were stationed at Camp Lejeune.

Conclusion and Key Results

ATSDR’s study results suggested possible associations between exposure to PCE, DCE, and vinyl chloride at Camp Lejeune and male breast cancer. These results took into account age at diagnosis, race, and service in Vietnam. For PCE, risk increased slightly with increasing levels of exposure.

Exposures to TCE, PCE, DCE, and vinyl chloride were also observed to possibly accelerate the onset of male breast cancer.

The study did not find evidence suggesting associations between male breast cancer and exposures to benzene.

The results of this study add to the scientific literature on the health effects of exposures to these chemicals in drinking water. However, these findings were based on small numbers of exposed cases.

ATSDR intends to evaluate male breast cancer in a planned cancer incidence study that will involve state cancer registries nationwide as well as federal cancer registries.

Additional Resources