When the Twin Towers came crashing down almost 10 years ago an enormous cloud of toxic dust filled the sky and enveloped the area. New York firefighters were among the fist on the tragic scene and worked tirelessly for weeks at ground zero, breathing in the toxic dust and debris that remained in the air. A new study now suggests that these heroes might be at an increased risk of cancer due to breathing in the toxic dust.
According to a research recently published in the Lancet medical journal and this CNN report the firefighters who worked at ground zero following 9/11 have an increased risk of being diagnosed with cancer, when compared to other who did not work the site.
The research shows a 19% increase in cancer diagnosis in the first seven years following 9/11 for those firefighters that worked at ground zero.
"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."
The results are surprising because in most cancers the latency period, or time between exposure to the carcinogen and the development of cancer, spans decades but in this situation researchers are seeing significant increases in the number of first responders developing cancer in a matter of only a few years.
One theory is that the vast number of different chemicals, including benzene and asbestos, contained within the dust around ground zero may be accelerating the onset of cancer in first responders.
It is important that results of this early study be carefully examined and that additional follow-up studies be closely monitored for years to come.