New Study Finds Higher Cancer Rate For 9/11 Firefighters


A new study in the British medical journal The Lancet suggests that firefighters who were exposed to the caustic dust and smoke in the smoldering wreckage of the World Trade Center in 2001 are 19 percent more likely to develop cancer than those who were not at the site. Dr. David J. Prezant, the chief medical officer for the New York Fire Department, led the study and said that there is an “increased likelihood for the development of any type of cancer” for those who worked in the ruins of the twin towers.

Currently, cancer is not an illness covered by the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which has set aside $4.3 billion to treat those suffering from health problems as a result of the 9/11 attacks. An earlier federal review of scientific evidence published on July 27 had concluded that 9/11 first responders and residents of ground zero who developed cancer after the 2001 attacks did not qualify for aid from the federal government program at least until 2012. Asthma and respiratory ailments have so far primarily been seen as falling under the act.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is charged to conduct periodic reviews of studies to consider adding other health problems to the list. Representative Carolyn R. Mahoney, the chief sponsor of the Zadroga Act in the House, indeed said that the new study is “building the case” and that she believed that there will “eventually be a consensus in the medical community” that supports a link, according to the New York Times.

The report studied cancer occurrence in nearly 10,000 male Fire Department personnel in the seven years after Sept. 11, 2001. (There were too few women to create a meaningful sample size.) Firefighters were eligible to participate if they were active on Jan. 1, 1996, and if their exposure to substances at the World Trade Center site was known. Of those in the study, 8,927 were classified as exposed, meaning they spent at least one day at the site in the 10 months after Sept. 11. Almost all of those were exposed in the first two weeks after the attack.

There were 263 cancer cases in the exposed population, reflecting a cancer rate 19 percent higher than that of the group not exposed. The cancer rate of the exposed group was only 10 percent higher than that of American men over all. And the group of firefighters who were not exposed had a lower rate than the general population, which the researchers said may be a result of their overall physical fitness and low smoking rates.

The study found no link between exposure to the wreckage and debris at ground zero and specific types of cancer. Some types of cancer – melanoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and thyroid and prostate cancer — may occur more frequently in exposed firefighters than in the general population.

The Lancet also published two other reports about health issues and the 9/11 attacks on Thursday. Researchers at Mount Sinai Medical Center found that  respiratory, gastrointestinal and mental illness among rescue and recovery workers have continued to occur. A report by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene found a lower mortality rate among recovery and rescue workers as compared to the general population of New York City; this study’s authors said this lower rate was due to the “healthy-worker effect,” that those who were at the site were more likely to be employed and thus “a group typically healthier than the general population.”

While Dr. Prezant’s study provides the “strongest evidence” yet of a link between ground zero and cancer, more research still needs to be done. Dr. Prezant himself noted that “the results were far from conclusive.” But the new study does indicate that concerns about a higher incidence of cancer in 9/11 firefighters aren’t outside the realm of possibility.


Related Care2 Coverage

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Politicians In, FDNY/NYPD and Clergy Out For 9/11 Ceremony

9/11 Responders Denied Coverage for Cancer Treatment


Photo taken September 19, 2001, by mashleymorgan


Jamie Clemons
Jamie Clemons6 years ago

False flag.

Alpa Patel
Alpa P6 years ago

I have signed this petition. I will continue supporting our heroes including war veterans who don't get the proper support from the government.

Alpa Patel
Alpa P6 years ago

I was in WTC from 8-8:20 am on Sept. 11th. I was in the lobby with my father in Tower 2. We came out from the train. It was a normal day and we both did our normal routines talked at the lobby and say hello to people and said goodbye to each other. We were both spared from the attacks because we were both in different locations not at WTC during the attacks, but not too far from the WTC. The timing was the key because we would have been in WTC around 8:30 -9am,but that day we rushed to Manhattan. I did not see the towers get hit, but I smelled the smoke from the Brooklyn Bridge after the attacks. It changed my life because I struggled with health issues, other issues, and fear. I hit rock bottom that time. I became a different person with problems. Many days I would cry or feel ill during these 10 years. I slowly came back and became stronger because of my family, health professionals, friends, God, and other great people who supported me in my darkest times. I shared my story with women who have problems due to wars, not having support from others, health issues, rape, and such. Since 9-11 I have done a lot of social work for animals, environment, advocacy, poor, signed petitions that helped passed laws, volunteering at the temple, and more. I said to myself that I will fight back evil through good services. I prayed every year since 9-11 that bin Laden be punished. I was very happy when I heard he was shot by the Navy Seals. I learned I am so much stronger than I thought.

Judith Corrigan
Judith Corrigan6 years ago

Gladly signed.I truly believe that the cost of treatment for these brave individuals should be covered.They have already been through enough without having to worry about money.

Laurie Greenberg
Laurie Greenberg6 years ago

I will never understand people, who encourage others to go where they, themselves, fear to tread. Personally, I would have encouraged these people to go get safety gear before helping in the danger zone. What was she thinking?

Sylvia B.
Sylvia B6 years ago

Well of course, all that dust and smoked inhaled by rescue workers would most definitively be carciogenic. We all know the end result!

Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle6 years ago

Well, I'm glad it's documented, but .... DUH!!!!! These unselfish people, who threw themselves into an unknown, dangerous situation, should have EVERYTHING they need for the rest of their lives -- they, and their families.

Judith Howard
Judith Howard6 years ago

I think it was the head of the environmental agency at the time of the 911 crisis telling those at ground zero had nothing to worry about and some of those same people were walking around without any protective gear. When I heard her say that, it made me want to throw up. It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that being in that toxic mess was a serious health threat.

I wonder if that same government bureaucrat has seen this?

june t.
reft h6 years ago

this has been going on for too long... it's a shame people sacrificed their health only to be treated like dirt... disposable ....