Veterans exposed to high PFAS levels are twice as likely to develop non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is the most prevalent type of blood cancer, and the number of people who develop it has been increasing ever since the 1970s. 1 in 50 Americans will develop non-Hodgkin's lymphoma at some point during their lifetime. While the risk increases with age, it also occurs in children and young adults.
The majority of people with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma are 65 or older. Still, when toxic exposure is the cause, the disease can occur at a considerably younger age.
One of the most common risk factors for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is exposure to certain toxic agents. Benzene, which was present in tremendous amounts at Camp Lejeune, is one of the chemicals responsible for the development of this cancer.
The researchers who led a study published in the Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention identified 43 case-control studies of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma outcomes in workers with occupational exposure to benzene. Forty of these, or 93%, showed a significant elevation of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma risk, with 23 of 43 studies finding statistically significant associations between non-Hodgkin's lymphoma risk and benzene exposure. They also identified 26 studies of petroleum refinery workers reporting morbidity or mortality for lymphomas and all neoplasms and found that in 23, or 88%, the rate of lymphoma morbidity or mortality was higher than that for all cancers.
Multiple other reputable studies have also found a connection between exposure to benzene and the occurrence of lymphoma in mice. Furthermore, since benzene is similar to alkylating drugs and radiation in triggering leukemia, it is plausible that it might also cause lymphoma, as they do so by similar mechanisms. Some of benzene's potential mechanisms of triggering non-Hodgkin's lymphoma are:
- chromosomal damage
Trichloroethylene and perchloroethylene, two chlorinated solvents that lurked in the drinking water at Camp Lejeune during the last century, also have a strong connection with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. A study from the American Journal of Epidemiology states that a high risk of the disease was associated with occupational exposure to chlorinated solvents and carbon tetrachloride. Moreover, the researchers found that diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, a very aggressive subtype of this cancer, was more likely to be caused by benzene exposure. A significantly increased risk of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma was observed for participants exposed to benzene at a medium-high probability level.
The most common symptom of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is a painless swelling in the lymph nodes, and, unfortunately, numerous medical specialists overlook the other symptoms of this cancer because they can be similar to those of a less serious health condition such as the flu. These are the most prevalent symptoms occurring with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma:
- weight loss
- swollen lymph nodes
- night sweats
- chest pain or pressure
- shortness of breath
- a persistent cough
- swollen abdomen
- easy bruising or bleeding
Finally, exposure to perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS, was found to double the risk of developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma among veterans exposed to high concentrations. Military firefighters would use the fire suppressant AFFF, which contains up to 98% PFAS, regularly at Camp Lejeune, which is why they now have a whopping 81% higher risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, according to a study from the American Journal of Industrial Medicine. However, military firefighters have a 1.5 greater risk of developing this disease on average.