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Two studies, editorial report on cancer risk for firefighters at World Trade Center disaster

April 26, 2018

Bottom Line: Two studies and a related editorial report on cancer risk for firefighters with the Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY) exposed to the wreckage of the World Trade Center during rescue and recovery work following the attacks on September 11, 2001.

Why The Research Is Interesting: The wreckage of the World Trade Center created environmental exposures to known and suspected carcinogens.

  • Rachel Zeig-Owens, Dr.P.H., of the FDNY World Trade Center Health Program, New York, and coauthors report on the "Estimation of Future Cancer Burden Among Rescue and Recovery Workers Exposed to the World Trade Center Disaster." This study projected new cancer cases over 20 years among a group of 14,474 FDNY rescue and recovery workers exposed to the World Trade Center disaster site. Estimates suggest 2,960 new cases of cancer (including more prostate, thyroid and melanoma cancers) among these rescue and recovery workers between 2012-2031, which is greater than would be expected in a population that is similar demographically. Among white men in the group, 2,714 new cancers were estimated compared with 2,596 in a comparison group.
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  • Ola Landgren, M.D., Ph.D., of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, and coauthors report on "Multiple Myeloma and its Precursor Disease Among Firefighters Exposed to the World Trade Center Disaster." In a case series, the authors describe firefighters exposed to the World Trade Center disaster site who were later diagnosed with the blood cancer multiple myeloma and they also conducted a screening study of precursor disease for multiple myeloma. There were 16 firefighters diagnosed with multiple myeloma among a group of 12,942 exposed firefighters; exposure to the World Trade Center disaster site appeared to be associated with precursor disease of multiple myeloma.
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  • Otis W. Brawley, M.D., M.Sc., of the American Cancer Society and Emory University, Atlanta, wrote an accompanying editorial, "Some Thoughts on Exposure to the World Trade Center Wreckage and Cancer." In it, Brawley writes: "The predicted increases in cancers of the prostate, thyroid, and myeloma are interesting. Excess incidence and mortality for these cancers have been previously reported in firefighters from other cities. Are the predicted increases due to WTC [World Trade Center] exposure or a career as a firefighter?"
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For more details and to read the full study, please visit the For The Media website.

(doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2018.0504 (Zeig-Owens); doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2018.0097 (Landgren); doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2018.0498 (Brawley)
Editor's Note: Please see the articles for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.

JAMA Oncology

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