Nearly 20 Years Later, Cancer Rates Higher in 9/11 First Responders


TUESDAY, Jan. 14, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Nearly two decades after terrorists attacked New York’s World Trade Center, certain cancers are striking police and recovery workers who saved lives, recovered bodies and cleaned up the wreckage.

This particular group of responders appears to have an increased risk of developing thyroid cancer, leukemia and prostate cancer, as well as a slightly elevated overall risk of cancer, researchers report.

Yet, “there is no evidence of an epidemic of cancer. There is evidence of increased risk for certain cancers among WTC-exposed responders,” said lead author Moshe Shapiro, a biostatistician with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.

U.S. federal programs provide continuing care for the different types of rescue workers who poured into Ground Zero, the researchers added.

In the 2001 attacks, terrorists flew two commercial airliners into each of the twin towers, causing both skyscrapers to collapse in a matter of hours.

This new study focused on nearly 29,000 members of the WTC Health Program who belong to the General Responder Cohort, a group of mostly police and recovery workers, Shapiro said. Firefighters mainly belong to a different group under study.

Using data from state-level cancer registries, Shapiro and his colleagues tracked the health of these Ground Zero workers up through 2013.

They found that the responders had a thyroid cancer risk more than double that of the general population.

Their risk of leukemia was 41% higher, and their risk of prostate cancer was 25% higher, results showed. Their overall risk of any cancer was 9% higher than the general population.

“There are lots of different things that were in that dust cloud, many of which are known to be harmful,” said study co-author Dr. Henry Sacks, a professor of environmental health and public health with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

The study was published Jan. 14 in the journal JNCI Cancer Spectrum.

The risk found in this study is “not surprising at all,” said Dr. Leonidas Platanias, director of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University in Chicago.

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