Friday, September 2, 2011

Firefighters responding to 9/11 at increased cancer risk: Does anyone care?

Firefighters exposed to toxic dust and fumes clogging the air after the World Trade Center towers collapsed 10 years ago are more likely to develop cancer, according to a new study.

When compared with firefighters who did not work at ground zero, firefighters working the pile were 19% more likely to get a cancer diagnosis.

According to the research, published Thursday in the Lancet medical journal, the increase occurred during the first seven years after 9/11.

"We excluded cancers that might have been diagnosed early (that may have existed before the attack) ... and we still see a 19% increase," said Dr. David Prezant, chief medical officer at the New York City Fire Department and the study's lead author, in a recent interview with CNN. "When we put those cancers back in, we see a 32% increase."

It is an unexpected finding considering that for most cancers, the latency period -- the time between exposure to a carcinogen and expression of disease -- tends to span decades. more