9/11 World Trade Center firefighters 13% more likely to develop cancer
And they are younger, on average, when diagnosed with the disease.
Firefighters who worked at the World Trade Center following the September 11, 2001 attacks are 13% more likely than their colleagues who did not work at the site to develop cancer, especially prostate and thyroid cancer. according to research published online in the journal. Occupational and environmental medicine.
They are also about 4 years younger, on average, at the time of diagnosis, the results indicate.
Firefighters are regularly exposed to various carcinogens in the course of their work, but it is not entirely clear whether they are at increased risk of developing the disease as a result, the researchers say.
To complicate matters, the environment at the World Trade Center site was particularly toxic, exposing firefighters to harmful substances, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), asbestos, sulfuric acid acid, benzene and arsenic.
In an attempt to quantify the firefighters’ level of risk, the researchers compared new cancer cases among 10,786 New York City firefighters, who worked at the World Trade Center site following the 9/11 attacks, with of cases in 8,813 firefighters who had not done so. , and which were part of the Career Firefighter Health Study (CFHS).
World Trade Center firefighters were classified according to their level of exposure to harmful toxins: on the morning of September 11, 1741 (16%), being the highest risk; the afternoon of September 11, 5,683 (53%); the next day, 1873 (17.5%); period between September 13 and September 24, 1315 (12%); and any time after September 24, 2001, 174 (1.5%), which is the lowest risk.
The health of the firefighters was monitored until death or December 31, 2016, whichever came first, and the incidence of cancer among them was then compared to that of American men in the general population.
Some 915 cancers have been diagnosed in 841 of the World Trade Center firefighters; 1002 cases were diagnosed in 909 of the other firefighters.
After accounting for potentially influencing factors, including smoking and previous involvement in military combat, firefighters at the World Trade Center were 13% more likely to develop cancer than their colleagues who did not work at the site.
Specifically, their risk of prostate cancer was 39% higher while that of thyroid cancer was more than twice as high.
On average, World Trade Center firefighters were also about 4 years younger when diagnosed, and they tended to have early-stage illness that had not yet spread.
When the incidence of cancer was compared to that of American men in the general population, both groups of firefighters had higher rates of prostate and skin cancer (melanoma).
But those differences diminished after accounting for “surveillance bias,” meaning more cancer cases could have been detected among firefighters because their health would have been more closely monitored.
“Part of the excessive risk of prostate cancer may be due to [World Trade Center] exposure in addition to the usual firefighting hazards, as some chemicals, such as PCBs, commonly found on construction sites, including [World Trade Center], are known endocrine disruptors, interfering with androgen metabolism, ”note the researchers.
“Alternatively, the high rates of certain cancers, including thyroid and prostate cancers, could have been caused by non-biological factors such as enrollment in screening programs, in particular [World Trade Center]-related health programs, ”they add.
This is an observational study, and as such, cannot establish the cause. And the researchers conclude: “Two decades after September 11, a better understanding of [World Trade Center]- the risks associated with the risk require extensive monitoring and modeling studies (in the laboratory or on animals) to identify workplace exposures among all firefighters.
Reference: “Incidence of Cancer in Exposed and Unexposed Male Firefighters at the World Trade Center, Compared to the American Adult Male Population: 2001-2016” By Mayris P Webber, Ankura Singh, Rachel Zeig-Owens, Joke Salako, Molly Skerker , Charles B Hall, David G Goldfarb, Robert D Daniels and David J Prezant, September 10, 2021,
DOI: 10.1136 / oemed-2021-107570