Over 7% of Camp Lejeune veterans exposed to PFAS are at high risk of developing colon cancer
In the United States, 1 in 23 men and 1 in 25 women will receive a diagnosis of colorectal cancer at some point during their lifetime. While the most common causes of colorectal cancer include excessive alcohol consumption, obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, and tobacco smoking, a lesser-known cause is toxic exposure.
Studies found that prolonged exposure to the following solvents may considerably increase the risk of colorectal cancer:
- carbon tetrachloride
- methylene chloride
Some of these harmful solvents were contaminating the water at Camp Lejeune during the last century, which inevitably led to toxic exposure among service members. Between 1953 and 1987, as many as one million people lived at the military base, most of whom drank and cooked with toxic water. For this reason, veterans are now at high risk of developing colorectal and intestinal cancer.
A study published in the medical journal Cancer Epidemiology found that benzene exposure increased the risk of colorectal cancer, occurring especially in the ascending and transversal colon. Women are more likely to develop colorectal cancer due to benzene exposure than men. Benzene was just one of the solvents lurking at Camp Lejeune. It was mostly present in the products with which service members would clean up equipment and weapons. Moreover, a study from the World Journal of Gastroenterology discovered that individuals regularly exposed to organic solvents have a greater risk of colorectal cancer. Researchers also found a strong association between the following solvents and colon and rectal cancer:
Finally, a study from BMC Cancer found that PFOS and PFOA, the most known chemicals from the PFAS category, are environmental contaminants impacting metabolic regulation, inflammation, and other factors involved in the development and progression of colorectal cancer. Interestingly, the link between PFOA and colorectal cancer was more pronounced in men and leaner adults. On military bases, the source of PFOS and PFOA is the past use of AFFF, a dangerous fire suppressant containing up to 98% PFAS. Finally, it is important to note that military firefighters have a colon cancer risk 1.21 times higher than civilians, which is due to their PFAS exposure.