9/11 First Responders Face Higher Cancer Risk 20 Years Later

9/11 First Responders Face Higher Cancer Risk 20 Years Later

By Amy Norton HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Sept. 13, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Twenty years on, responders to the World Trade Center attacks in New York City are showing increased risks of certain cancers, two new studies confirm.

Researchers found higher-than-average rates of prostate cancer among firefighters, medics and other workers who toiled at the disaster site on and after Sept. 11, 2001.

And compared with firefighters from other major U.S. cities, those exposed to the 9/11 disaster had higher risks of both prostate and thyroid cancers.

It’s been known that World Trade Center rescue and recovery workers have above-average rates of certain cancers.

But the new studies help clarify the picture further, experts said.

In one, researchers found that increased risks of prostate cancer began showing up surprisingly early — a little over five years after responders’ exposure to the twin tower site and the toxic dust cloud that enveloped it.

“We were not expecting the latency period to be that short,” said senior researcher Charles Hall, a professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.

Often, cancer has a long latency — meaning it develops many years after a person’s initial exposure to a carcinogen.

Hall said the new findings suggest “we should not assume all cancers have a long latency period.”

And that, he said, could inform medical follow-up of responders to other large-scale disasters, such as major wildfires.

“This implies that when we have a disaster like this, we may want to establish surveillance sooner,” Hall said.

The other study compared New York City firefighters who responded on 9/11 with firefighters in other big U.S. cities. It found that compared with their colleagues, 9/11 firefighters had a 13% higher risk of developing any type of cancer over the next 15 years.

Two specific cancers stood out: New York City firefighters had more than double the risk of thyroid cancer, and a 39% higher risk of prostate cancer. They were also typically about four years younger when diagnosed with cancer, the researchers reported.

Hall also worked on that study. He said the findings bolster the case that exposures on 9/11 — and not only the general occupation

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