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Jan-20-2011 04:09printcomments

Camp Lejeune and Breast Cancer: Not Just a Male Problem Anymore

The Camp Lejeune water supply's smorgasbord of toxins have led to 64 male breast cancer cases; now we learn there is at least one female case also.

Camp Lejeune Hadnot Point
Photos provided by Nancy Brown

(CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C.) - As a nurse in the US Navy during the 1970's, Nancy (Neale) Brown was stationed at the Camp Lejeune Marine base in North Carolina.

Nancy at Camp Lejeune; mid-1970's

Nancy has enjoyed a successful life, but she is lucky; for at a young age, Nancy became a breast cancer survivor. Her place in this story is unique; even though this disease primarily affects women.

Women in the U.S. have a 1 in 8 lifetime chance of developing invasive breast cancer and a 1 in 33 chance that it will cause their death. The American Cancer Society (ACS) says approximately 40,000 women die each year from breast cancer.

The same group estimates that in 2010, about 390 men died from breast cancer. They reveal that breast cancer is about 100 times less common among men than women.

Marine Corps CH-46 photographed by Nancy at Lejeune

A man's lifetime risk of breast cancer is one in a thousand. It's widely reported by the ACS and others that the number of breast cancer cases in men relative to the population has been fairly stable over the last 30 years.

That may be true unless you are talking about Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; an active Marine Corps base; increasingly known as a site of severe water contamination, at least 64 men previously connected to this place have been diagnosed with breast cancer.

The Marines did what they could to keep this from public view over the years, but The AP discovered last year that the Marines had been changing the numbers regarding the benzene levels for years.

They were caught, the cat came out of the bag and the cards are on the table today. happens to have several writers who were US Marines at the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station in California which is also heavily contaminated, and at Camp Lejeune.

Along with writers like Robert O'Dowd, John Uldrich and Dave Bedworth, we have written a great deal about the contamination of these two bases. Our rewards are raising awareness and hearing from people whose lives have been impacted by this dangerous toxic Marine Corps reality. Nancy Brown is one of the few female breast cancer survivors that we have know of.

Benzene and Hadnot Point

Another 1970's shot of Hadnot Point by Nancy Brown.

Nancy was a US Navy Nurse

Nancy lived in the barracks next to the Naval Hospital on Hadnot Point; Camp Lejeune's most notorious 'hot spot' which has been revealed to be among other things, a location where alarming levels of benzene contamination are present.

Recalling her first summer there Nancy said, "It was so hot and humid that I took a shower three times a day, just trying to stay cool. Of course, I also drank a lot of water just to keep up with all the sweat that was pouring out of my body. I also ate food on base which was prepared with the same well water."

The Marines were offered no warnings and on a similar note, Navy personnel sailed through their days aboard this base in the informational darkness. Any clues of the danger were off the radar, Nancy said.

"Funny how it always seems that when you move to a new geographic area, the water tends to taste bad, or at least different. I would have never guessed that it was due to toxic chemicals in it."

Mike Partain, one of 64 men that we know of, who suffered
breast cancer and lived at North Carolina's Camp Lejeune.

Camp Lejune's Toxins:

Mike Partain is a breast cancer survivor who lived at Camp Lejeune. Working with former Marine Jerry Ensminger who lost a daughter to cancer while serving at the base, he has been on an endless campaign of awareness for male breast cancer.

He explains that from the 1950’s through 1987, "The US Military improperly disposed of chemical degreasers and other toxic substances that ultimately contaminated the drinking water at Camp Lejeune."

These substances have posed multiple health risks to countless military personnel, their families, and private individuals living and working near the vicinity of the base, Partain explains.

These risks include:

  • Cancers
  • Reproductive disorders
  • Birth defects
  • Neurological problems
  • Kidney and Liver disease

Jerry Ensminger & Janey

These problems have affected a great number of Marines and civilians who were at Camp Lejeune, but the most surprising to many of us has been the male breast cancer cases like Mike Partain's.

Those of us who pay close attention have been shocked to see the numbers go from fewer than 20, to the 30's and continually upward to the current count of 64.

While introducing Nancy to Jerry Ensminger, I mentioned that there was a proportionately smaller number of women on any Marine base.

Jerry's response opened my eyes to a somewhat different picture.

"Tim, while you are correct in the sense that there weren't many female service members at Camp Lejeune during those years, there were a lot of female civilian employees and dependents."

Not long ago, Nancy says, she searched Google to see if she could locate other Camp Lejeune females with breast cancer, but ran into a dead end.

"I have been watching the internet news about the Camp Lejeune story with an interest because I always wondered why I got breast cancer at a young age. No one in my family had ever had it. When I was diagnosed with breast Cancer, both my sisters and my Mom said, 'Of all of us, why You? You are the one in our family who always exercised, ate healthy foods and took care of your body. It does not make sense!'"

A Toxic Relationship

Nancy Brown today

When she later heard about the toxic drinking water at Camp Lejeune, Nancy recalls being a bit skeptical about it as a possible cause of her breast cancer, as many woman without any family history at all can certainly get breast cancer.

"At the time, I felt like I had been cured of breast cancer because I had been feeling well and the cancer had been surgically removed. End of story. I don't have to worry any more."

At the water's edge; Camp Lejeune

But then Nancy learned of the benzene found in the water and this led to another Google search, this time to see if there was a direct medical connection.

"The results alerted me to numerous experimental studies showing a direct relationship between benzene and breast cancer in rats. There were also stories about clusters of woman who developed breast cancer after being exposed to benzene in various settings."

Now Nancy was suspicious, and her new doctor suggested that she go see the cancer specialist again, just to be sure that none of the scar tissue he was feeling was a cancer recurrence.

The cancer doctor referred Nancy for more testing and suggested that she have the genetic blood testing done, as these results would determine a treatment plan of care if she had to consider more surgery or go into high surveillance screening.

"It was then that I thought of Camp Lejeune's drinking water and asked the cancer specialist what she thought about a possible connection between the toxic drinking water and my breast cancer. She replied, 'if I were you, I would not be as worried about the breast cancer. I would be a lot more worried about all of the other cancers you might get!' Soon after, my genetic tests came back negative and I am now convinced that my sisters and Mom were right. The water that I drank at Camp Lejeune was the cause of my breast cancer and I have a Nexus letter stating this to be highly probable from a reputable doctor."

Another recent shot of Nancy Brown

Fortunately, Nancy has a job with health insurance, but the yearly costs of high surveillance cancer screening can be quite expensive.

Former Marine Jim Fontella

"I plan to apply for a service connected disability, not because I feel that the government owes me anything, but because I want to be cared for if I develop a cancer recurrence or any other toxic water related condition down the road. I am hopeful that veterans affected by Camp Lejeune's toxic drinking water will someday soon be recognized and treated much like the veterans who were exposed to the toxin, Agent Orange."

The battles fought by this nation's military do not all take place in a combat zone. The Agent Orange saga is an immense American and Vietnamese tragedy and to this day large numbers of people in both countries suffer.

Like most of the contaminants on the Marine bases, the effects are residual; gifts that keep on giving. I should know, two of my sons born at MCAS El Toro had serious problems which are almost impossibly not connected to the base's contaminated water.

Both almost died in their first year.

Nancy's story is unique, and we all hope that as few women as possible had to deal with breast cancer. At the same time, we hope that this leads to the discovery and consequent education of other women who were aboard Camp Lejeune who suffered breast cancer.

My thought is that Nancy and Mike and all of the breast cancer survivors of Camp Lejeune who speak out are heroes in the purest sense. No doubt they inspire others to rally for the truth, and to help others who may be suffering health issues tied an invisible enemy.

As a parting thought, Nancy commented on something that always gives me pause; a calendar featuring the Marines of Camp Lejeune who suffer from breast cancer.

She said, "I appreciate all the brave men who told their stories and posed for the Art beCAUSE calendar, 'MEN, Breast Cancer, and the Environment: A photographic Journey'. It took a lot of courage to do so! I would love to thank each of them." And in turn Nancy, I know they would enjoy thanking you for maintaining the best qualities of a Naval officer; honor, encouragement and justice.

Article source references:

How many women die from breast cancer each year? -


American Cancer Society - Learn About Cancer

World Health Organization articles about Camp Lejeune and male breast cancer:

Sep-19-2010: Camp Lejeune is Amerika's Kursk - Tim King

April-15-2010: Camp Lejeune Toxic Water Legacy - Robert O'Dowd

April-08-2010: Veterans Input Needed on Environmental Breast Cancer Study - Robert O'Dowd

May-09-2010: Ugly Truth About the American Cancer Society - Tim King<

Sept-26-2009: Marines with Breast Cancer: the Terrible Toxic Legacy of Camp Lejeune and Trichloroethylene - Dr, Phil Leveque

Sept-25-2009: Lejeune Breast Cancer Victims Not Supported by Corps - Robert O'Dowd

July-09-2009: 17 Male Breast Cancer Victims Have Ties to Camp Lejeune Marine Base - Staff


Tim King: Editor and Writer

Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as's Executive News Editor. Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 covering the war in Afghanistan, and he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with both the U.S. Army and the Marines.

Tim holds numerous awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing, including the Oregon AP Award for Spot News Photographer of the Year (2004), first place Electronic Media Award in Spot News, Las Vegas, (1998), Oregon AP Cooperation Award (1991); and several others including the 2005 Red Cross Good Neighborhood Award for reporting. Tim has several years of experience in network affiliate news TV stations, having worked as a reporter and photographer at NBC, ABC and FOX stations in Arizona, Nevada and Oregon. Serving the community in very real terms, is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website. As News Editor, Tim among other things, is responsible for publishing the original content of 65 writers. He reminds viewers that emails are easily missed and urges those trying to reach him, to please send a second email if the first goes unanswered. You can send Tim an email at this address:

Comments Leave a comment on this story.

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Lois Sue Barnard March 21, 2017 11:05 am (Pacific time)

Hi, I just found this site, 5 years after the fact. I was a Corpswave stationed at Camp LeJeune Naval Hospital from June 1973 to May 1974. I too was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 43, negative family history and a negative bracca and gene testing for my family. I too lived in the house near the hospital with all the other corpswaves, bathed in and drank the water and ate at the hospital dining room for all three meals and midnight snacks. I have filed but have heard nothing, and I am a VA nurse. Would love to be put in contact with Nancy and any other navy female affected by the Camp LeJeune water contamination.

WENDY SWAVELY December 16, 2012 6:35 am (Pacific time)


Nancy Brown January 10, 2012 9:17 pm (Pacific time)

Hi Tim,
Today, I received a SC disability award letter in the mail. It says "Breast cancer is a known result of the water exposure in Camp Lejeune and you have no family history of breast cancer or other risk factors. As a result, the examiner was able to link this disability to your military service." I just wanted to share this and thank you again for keeping this in the news! Nancy

Tim King: Thank you Nancy!

Barbara DelValle February 28, 2011 9:34 pm (Pacific time)

I am a former female Marine who was stationed aboard Camp Leujeune during my 12 years of active duty. I developed stage 3 breast cancer and am totally convinced this was because of the contaminated water aboard the base. Would like more info.

Tim King: Please write to me Barbara,

Sandra Bridges January 25, 2011 1:46 pm (Pacific time)

First of all I'd like to thank TIM KING and SALEM NEWS for continuing to keep us right up there in the public eye. We have so much to be thankful to you for. Thank you, Tim. Nancy, my heart goes out to you. I read t

Tim King: Sandra, thank you so much... I believe part of your comment was cut off, I would be happy to add the rest, thanks for your kind words!

Sandra Hogue Bridges January 25, 2011 1:59 pm (Pacific time)

First of all, I'd like to thank TIM KING and SALEM NEWS again for continuing to keep us up right up there in the public eye. You have helped us come a long way. You are very much appreciated, Tim. Thank you.....Nancy, my heart goes out as I am sure everyone else does as well. Please stay with us on the web site. We need to hear more from you. God bless. Sandy

PE in Flolrida January 21, 2011 11:04 am (Pacific time)

Yes, I am a cancer surviror - also stationed at the Naval Hospital in the 70's

Buzz Baer January 20, 2011 3:35 pm (Pacific time)

Hi Tim: Let Nancy know that my wife died of breast cancer. We were stationed at Lejeune from 68-70. She was also pregnant at the time. My daughter was born in 69. I have just beeen diagnoised with Fibrosis of The Lungs. Next stop Va. Have already submitted To Judge Avocate General On My Wife. Semper Fi

Tim King: Buzz, thanks for passing this important information along and I will be sure to get it to Nancy.  I'm glad we are getting information out for others, it is so important.  Thanks very much,  Semper Fi

Nancy Brown January 20, 2011 10:47 am (Pacific time)

Thanks Tim, nicely done!

Thanks Jerry - I  have been to your website before and have searched for other female breast cancer survivors/victims on the Illness Registry. It is hard to get a handle of the numbers of Camp Lejeune females with breast cancer as there are so many people listed with so many illnesses listed on the website. It would be great to know if the number of Camp Lejeune females with breast cancer is proportionately higher than that of the general public, much like the statistics of the Camp Lejeune men with a higher incidence of male breast cancer. Perhaps this data will tease out in the future.

Tim King: Nancy, the pleasure is all mine, thanks so much for sharing this story with our readers!

Michael Glenn January 20, 2011 7:03 am (Pacific time)

Thank you for another great article of our suffering.

Jerry Ensminger January 20, 2011 5:36 am (Pacific time)

I would be remiss if I didn't inform you that we do have other female breast cancer survivors/victims registered on our web-site. Semper Fi, Jerry Ensminger

Tim King: Jerry, I will revise the story to reflect that, and I regret the error, thanks for letting me know!  Semper fi 

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