A recent article in the online Army Times notes that “…breast cancer [is] striking relatively young military women at alarming rates, [and] male service members, veterans and their dependents are at risk, as well.” Is it true our military personnel have to worry about breast cancer – as well as bombs and bullets?
This weekend marks Veterans Day, the day we honor all of those who’ve served our country in the military.
And while you may think of it as simply another long weekend, it’s actually a time I hope we could all stop and consider those who’ve put themselves in harm’s way for our country.
I’m not a huge flag-waver; I’d say I’m about as patriotic as the average American – which is to say pretty avid every four years during the Olympics, and pretty lackadaisical the rest of the time. It’s all too easy to take the privileges we enjoy here for granted; and I admit I do so, most of the time.
But I’m the daughter of a decorated WWII veteran, and the wife of a decorated, wounded Vietnam veteran. Like me, neither of the two men in my life were flag-wavers; in fact, it was nearly impossible to get them to talk about their war experiences – which I’ve found is usually the case with those who’ve truly experienced the hell of combat.
Still, I like to take a moment to honor everyone who’s donated 2, 4, 6, or more years of his or her life to keeping us safe and secure. And this year, I’m going to send a good karma to the men and women currently serving in the military, in hopes that they’ll stay cancer-free – despite what might be their slightly increased risk for a breast cancer diagnosis.
The Army Times story calling out the “alarming rates” of breast cancer among military personnel, both men and women, turns out to be somewhat overstated, thankfully. Not due to any faulty reporting – but simply in the way facts can be presented in different ways.
Reporter Jon Anderson, in his article “Alarming Breast Cancer Rates Among Troops,” says that “military women are 20 percent to 40 percent more likely to get the disease than other women in the same age groups.”
Now, at first blush, that does indeed seem alarming. But looked at more closely, the study Anderson was drawing from, which compared data from the National Cancer Database and the military’s own cancer database, showed that for every 100,000 women in the civilian population, an average of 32 would be diagnosed with breast cancer; while in the military population, that number is 41.1 – a 28% increase.
That works out to an additional 9.1 cases of breast cancer per 100,000 military women. Alarming? Yes, in that all cases of cancer are alarming. But statistically speaking, this .009% increased absolute risk is small.
And, according to Col. (Dr.) John Peoples, author of the study Anderson drew his data from, readily explainable.