CNN looks into link between Lejuene water, cancer

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

CNN’s Abbie Boudreau and Scott Bronstein investigated a possible link between male breast cancer and contaminated drinking water provided at the Marine training base at Camp Lejeune between the ’60s and the mid-’80s. Twenty male Marines with breast cancer have found that the only thing they have in common is drinking the water at Lejeune, but, Boudreau and Bronstein report, “two independent studies have found no link between water contamination and later illnesses, according to the Marine Corps.”

The reports talked to seven of the cancer-afflicted men, finding that neither the VA nor the Marine Corps will pay for their cancer treatments, citing in at least one case that the cancer “neither occurred in nor was caused by service.”

The men with breast cancer are among about 1,600 retired Marines and Camp Lejeune residents who have filed claims against the federal government. According to congressional investigators, they are seeking nearly $34 billion in compensation for health problems they say stemmed from drinking water at the base that was contaminated with several toxic chemicals, including some the federal government has classified as known or potential cancer-causing agents.

In a blog post about the piece, Boudreau discusses questions raised by her research on unproven links between Lejuene water and cancer, openly wondering if the connection will ever be conclusively proven to be either true or false.

2 thoughts on “CNN looks into link between Lejuene water, cancer

  1. Rose Hoban

    I looked long and hard at this situation, since it’s in the state where I report. The case is far from clear… and this is the problem with reporting on environmental health. So often the data are really, really unclear.

    Having sat through a year’s worth of grad school classwork in risk assessment/ toxicology, taught by a guy from the NRDC and a world-renowned arsenic toxicologist, my inclination was to look at this evidence and find a whitewash. I read the studies, one of the NAS authors is here at UNC and I talked to him.

    But he (and even my old profs) will admit determining causality, or even correlation, is damnably hard. It certainly doesn’t make for compelling storylines… Erin Brockovich was the exception, not the rule. More often it’s close to impossible to do anything other than infer a relationship between exposure and outcome.

    Add into that the amount of time elapsed between the exposure, all the common confounders these guys could have had (food eaten, meds required, ammo chemicals, etc)… I’m feeling Bodreau’s pain about how inconclusive the evidence is, and I’m admiring that she didn’t come to a sensationalist ‘conclusion’. I’m sure she had editors who were pressuring her to do so.

  2. Mike Maltbie

    I may have information that might help your marines at camp Lejeune, Please call (ASAP) (530)354-4881

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