The Marine Corps should be more concerned with addressing serious health concerns than with polishing its image. Its attempt to silence questions about an alarming rate of breast cancer among men who spent time at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina by distributing misleading statistics is disingenuous. The Marine families deserve more respect.
The North Carolina base's water was polluted by solvents for decades. At least 53 men with ties to the base between 1957 and 1987 have been diagnosed with a rare form of breast cancer. More study should be done to determine whether there is a direct link between the illnesses and the polluted water. But such a cluster suggests a far higher rate of breast cancer among men tied to Camp Lejeune in those years than the National Cancer Institute cites for the general population.
Yet the Marine Corps is steering other media outlets in a different direction. It notes the American Cancer Society says men have a 1-in-1,000 lifetime chance of breast cancer. Using that ratio, hundreds of men from the base during the time period in question would have been expected to get breast cancer. But the cancer society's figures apply to men living to age 95, and most of the 53 cases found so far involve men who were under 70 years old before they were diagnosed. So the Marine Corps' math is deceptively simplistic and misleading.
This revelation follows news that the National Research Council reported in June that the high rate of breast cancer could not be linked to the base's polluted water — a month after the Corps entered into a $600,000 contract with the Council. There is something foul here, and it's not just polluted water.