9/11 Exposure Linked to Prostate Cancer, Heart Problems

Doctors are getting a better sense of health problems associated with exposure to the hazardous substances at Ground Zero. Prostate cancer, premature stiffening of the heart and thyroid cancers are turning up as key medical problems among 9/11 responders. Health experts presenting data at a Manhattan symposium say that newly identified biomarkers, certain proteins in the blood, are giving researchers a better idea of how prostate cancers progress.

According to Newsday, researchers are finding that certain health problems are appearing at young ages in 9/11 responders and some residents who have enrolled in the WTC Health Program, which provides both free medical treatment and monitoring. Specifically, they are seeing premature stiffening of the heart, which impairs its effectiveness at pumping blood to the rest of the body. This condition is usually diagnosed in elderly patients. Additionally, a higher rate of prostate cancer has been linked to WTC exposure.

Dr. Michael A. Crane, director of the World Trade Center Health Program at The Mount Sinai Hospital, sponsor of the symposium at the New York Academy of Medicine, said “We are seeing some very young men with prostate cancer. The youngest one is 34,” according to Newsday. “Some guys have walked through the door of our center with very advanced-stage disease, and I can tell you this is something that is very rough on their families,”

Three consecutive studies have found unexpectedly high rates of prostate cancer in men who were involved in the 9/11 rescue, clean up and recovery efforts.

Dr. Crane says researchers are conducting further work to determine if these findings are due to artifact or a product of over-diagnosis. People in the WTC Health Program are generally under more medical surveillance. He noted that research has found “rates of several cancers are elevated in this population,”

WTC Health Program statistics indicate that nearly 6,000 WTC-exposed people have developed cancers. Mesothelioma is one of the cancers seen among responders, along with blood-cell malignancies, such as lymphomas, multiple myeloma and leukemias. Thyroid cancer is also diagnosed at a higher rate than expected.

This month, a study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine found that 223 men among 24,000 responders developed prostate cancer. Prostate cancer accounted for nearly one-third of all cancers among these responders; these statistics are highest for any form of cancer listed in the research.

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