On Sunday, the New York Post stated that the number of cancer cases among 9/11 first responders had more than doubled in the past year. They went from 1,140 to over 2,500.
The story refers to responders who worked at ground zero after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
These are cancers the federal government says are thought to be directly related to that effort, and are cancers like leukemia, myeloma, thyroid and prostate cancers.
There’s a total of 2,509 cases. The center has screened more than 37,000 World Trade Center rescue and recovery workers since 2002. It will continue to monitor those workers and volunteers for any new cases.
Some have argued that hundreds of chemical compounds, among them known carcinogens, were present in the dust surrounding ground zero.
Researchers found firefighters who worked at ground zero were 19% more likely to develop cancer than firefighters who did not. According to the 2011 study, published in The Lancet medical journal, the increase occurred during the first seven years after 9/11. There were subtle increases seen in a few cancers in particular, including gastro-esophageal cancers and blood cancers such as multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Here’s a list of the 10 most common cancers (as of 2013):
- Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer
- Melanoma of the Skin
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
There are also other health issues.
Dr. Philip Landrigan, senior author of the first study and chairman of preventive medicine at Mount Sinai Medical School in New York City studied more than 27,000 rescue and recovery workers and found that almost 28 percent had asthma, 42 percent had sinusitis and 39 percent had gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Both the respiratory and digestive problems are the result of the dust cloud emanating from the disaster site that entered people’s airways, causing inflammation and scarring, and burned its way into the esophagus, the study concluded.
“These people swallowed that very, very caustic dust which . . . was extremely alkaline. It was described as inhaling Drano in powdered form,” Landrigan said.
Dr. Stacey L. Silvers, an otolaryngologist with Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City, said she was actually surprised the percentages weren’t higher.
“The numbers are obviously very impressive but with the exposures to such damaging stimuli, I’m really surprised more people are not suffering,” she said.
But the fact that the respiratory ailments are persisting is a “worrisome sign,” Landrigan said. “It may be the forerunning of chronic lung disease in the future.”
Silvers said that people who haven’t already had symptoms are unlikely to develop them this far out in time, but it’s possible that who have had lingering symptoms might see more problems later on, such as lung or stomach cancer.