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9/11 firefighters more likely than other firefighters to develop cancer


TORONTO – Twenty years after the September 11 terrorist attacks, a new study found that firefighters at the World Trade Center were 13% more likely to develop cancer than other firefighters.

On Friday, two studies by New York researchers were published in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine. In one study, researchers looked at cancer cases in 10,786 New York City firefighters who worked at the World Trade Center between 2001 and 2016 and compared the data to that of 8,813 firefighters in the United States who were not. involved.

The researchers found that 915 cancers had been diagnosed in 841 World Trade Center firefighters. In the other group, there were 1,002 cases of cancer in 909 firefighters.

However, New York City firefighters were less likely to have been veterans and more likely to have never smoked in their lives. After adjusting for these variables, the researchers calculated that World Trade Center firefighters were 13% more likely to develop cancer.

The researchers also explained the “surveillance bias”. By September 11, first responders were entitled to free cancer screenings, which meant more cancer cases could have been detected through better health surveillance.

Firefighters are regularly subjected to carcinogenic environments in the course of their work. Prior to this study, it was not clear to what extent the World Trade Center environment posed an additional cancer risk.

Researchers say the dust from the World Trade Center contained large amounts of many carcinogens, including asbestos, benzene, chromium, dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls.

To date, the United States has spent US $ 11.7 billion on the care and compensation of those exposed to dust – about $ 4.6 billion more than it has given to families of the people killed or injured on September 11, 2001. More than 40,000 people received payments from a government fund for people with illnesses potentially linked to the attacks.

For prostate cancer, the risk to World Trade Center firefighters was 39% higher. These firefighters were also more than twice as likely to develop thyroid cancer.

“Given the long latency of some cancers, the relationship between (World Trade Center) exposure, firefighting, and cancer is particularly worthy of close examination in this year of the 20th anniversary of the ( World Trade Center), ”the authors wrote.

Another study looked at the risk of prostate cancer among firefighters, paramedics, police, construction workers and volunteers who helped rescue and clean up the World Trade Center.

Between 2002 and 2015, researchers followed the health of 54,394 men who had been first responders. They found that first responders were 24% more likely to develop prostate cancer than men in New York state who were not part of the rescue and cleanup efforts.

The authors say their study is the first to measure the time to cancer onset in 9/11 first responders. The mean latency period between exposure and diagnosis was 9.4 years and the mean age at diagnosis was 60 years. The first cases were diagnosed in 2006 and two-thirds of cases were diagnosed between 2009 and 2015.

“We also believe that this work will be of interest in the broader context of disaster management, particularly when analyzing the delay in diagnosing cancer among responders who have witnessed signal events with similar exposures such as the explosion of Deepwater Horizon Oil, ”the authors wrote.

Researchers involved in both studies note that their studies were observational studies and cannot establish the cause of the cancers. However, the authors of both studies say their findings show a clear relationship between cancer risk and exposure to the World Trade Center.

With files from The Associated Press

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