Study: 9/11 Responders May Be At Increased Risks For Certain Cancers

Rescue and recovery workers who responded to the September 11th World Trade Center terrorist attacks may be at an increased risk of certain types of cancer, according to an emerging study.

The study noted that it may take years for these cancers to be diagnosed, said Reuters Health. “There’s a lot of interest in the question of, does exposure to the World Trade Center cause cancer?” said Dr. Thomas Farley, the New York City Health Commissioner. Farley pointed out that the role of the 9/11 attacks on increased cancer risks is “complicated,” according to Reuters Health. Interest in cancers potentially linked to the World Trade Center dust cloud might be increasing over the ongoing debate regarding what is covered under the James L. Zadroga 9/11 Health & Compensation Act, said Reuters Health.

As we’ve explained, the Zadroga Act, which was passed in December 2010, reopened the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund for five years to provide payment for job and economic losses for first responders, those trapped in the buildings, and local residents, who suffered illness or injuries related to the toxic dust.

On the eve of the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, federal health officials finally acknowledged a link between toxic Ground Zero dust and cancer. At around the same time, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) announced that more than 50 different types of cancers will now be covered under the Zadroga Act. The decision will allow financially strapped Ground Zero first responders, who’ve since developed cancer, to access funds to cover their soaring healthcare costs.

Researchers have said that exposure to dust, smoke, and other chemicals that lingered following the 9/11 attacks, may have put those who nearby or involved in the clean-up at risk for developing a number of diseases, including cancer, said Reuters Health.

Of 23 types of cancers tracked in workers and residents by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, three were more common in this demographic during the last two years of the study: Prostate cancer; thyroid cancer; and multiple myeloma, which is cancer of the bone marrow cells, Reuters said. In fact, aid workers were 1.4-2.9 times likelier to be diagnosed with one of these cancers in 2007-2008 than other New Yorkers, according to the research that appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Dr. Jacqueline Moline of North Shore-LIJ Health System in Great Neck, New York, said studies have consistently revealed higher thyroid cancer rates in responders. It remains unclear why rescue workers are at an increased risk of prostate cancer, Moline told Reuters Health.

Moline has studied cancer in World Trade Center responders, but was not involved in this study and pointed out that seven years—this study’s period—is not enough time track the growth of solid tumors. “I think as times goes on we are going to see increased rates of cancer in those who were exposed, at higher rates than we would expect if they weren’t exposed,” she told Reuters Health. “We don’t have a really good handle on what happens when people are exposed to a complex mixture of carcinogens,” she added, saying “I think we’re not going to get a full answer for many years.”

The Zadroga Act provides health monitoring and care for those affected by the attacks through 2016, which is before some related cancers might be diagnosed, Moline noted.

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