Soldiers Face Alarmingly Higher Breast Cancer Rates

U.S. flagAs if U.S. soldiers didn't have enough stress in their lives from serving and protecting our country, now there's news that they're facing another kind of threat: Breast cancer. Apparently, the disease is striking relatively young military women and men, vets, and their dependents at alarming rates.

Strangely, although those in the military tend to have a lower risk for most cancers -- think colorectal, lung, and cervical cancer -- than civilians, when it comes to breast cancer, it's a whole different ballgame. According to top cancer expert from Boston University, Dr. Richard Clapp, who works for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on military breast cancer issues, "Military people in general, and in some cases very specifically, are at a significantly greater risk for contracting breast cancer." What the heck?!


A study done at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 2009 found this to be the case, too, citing that military women had an up to 40 percent! higher risk than civilian women of developing the disease. The researchers explained:

Military women are also more likely to be engaged in industrial jobs than females in the general population and hence, potentially more likely to be exposed to chemicals that may be related to breast cancer.

That's just horrifying. Makes me wonder if the chemicals are acting as hormone disruptors and upping their odds of estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer? I understand certain chemicals can't be avoided, but there has to be a way to eliminate a percentage of the toxins our service women and men are working with.

Thankfully, there are some small but heartening steps being taken to investigate the situation. For instance, Rep. Leonard L. Boswell (D-Iowa) -- a 20-year Army helicopter pilot with two tours in Vietnam -- has been trying since 2009 to get the Pentagon "to dig deeper in order to discover whether there is a service-related cause for the alarming rate of those members who are diagnosed." Unfortunately, his bills have stalled in Congress (whhhhyyyy??!), which is a real bummer -- especially because if his suspicions are confirmed, breast cancer may be treated as a service-connected disability and veterans could receive Veterans Affairs Department medical benefits to treat it.

Similarly, researchers with the CDC are preparing a study that will try to determine whether contaminated drinking water at the Marine Corps’ largest base on the East Coast caused dozens of male Marines, sailors and family members to get breast cancer.

Here's hoping progress is made when it comes to either of these valiant efforts -- or others along the same lines. It's the least we can do for those who are already battling on behalf of our country.

Are you surprised by this upsetting news?


Image via dcJohn/Flickr

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