Cancer Hitting 9/11 Firefighters Earlier & Harder

A Daily Mail article written by Mia De Graaf reports on two studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) which deliver sobering news for 9/11 first responders and survivors. 

Over the past 17 years, we have become aware of the life-threatening consequences that first responders, volunteers, students, workers and residents have experienced after being exposed to toxins during and in the months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  Many health issues such as cancer, lung disease and PTSD are directly linked to the toxic dust and debris that filled the air when the Twin Towers collapsed. 

Within weeks of September 11, 2001, residents were given the all clear to go back to their regular routine in the exposure zone. Unfortunately, we now know the air was still contaminated for several months following the attacks. Residents went to school, work and lived South of Canal Street and first responders continued to sift through the debris all the while breathing in toxins which included pulverized concrete, jet fuel and mercury.

One of the JAMA reports highlight the somber finding that 9/11 first responders are receiving cancer diagnosis 10-15 years sooner than the general population. Another report which focuses on multiple myeloma, a rare blood cancer, found that “its precursor is doubly common in 9/11 survivors compared to the general population, and those who develop myeloma get it 15 years earlier, and a much more aggressive form which is difficult to treat.”

If you just stick to the data and you see they are 10 to 15 years younger than the general population, it’s a more aggressive myeloma, and there is a doubling of the rate of the precursor.
— Dr Ola Landgren, author of the myeloma study and top oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

The World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP) calculates 5,400 people have contracted cancer from exposure to the toxic dust cloud in Lower Manhattan during and after the September 11th attacks. This number doesn’t include survivors who have developed one or more of the other WTCHP certified illnesses, which range from lung disease and GERD to sleep apnea and PTSD. Estimates by the World Trade Center Health Registry director lead us to believe an additional 400,000 first responders and residents could be at risk of 9/11-related illnesses. 

Early detection is important for catching and treating these diseases in the early stages, especially the precursor for myeloma among first responders.

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