Study finds firefighters at the World Trade Center are more likely to develop cancer

Today marks 20 years since terrorists attacked the United States on September 11, 2001. Those attacks killed many innocent Americans who were simply going about their day. While the tragedy in human lives was great, we also saw some stunning acts of heroism, particularly from first responders, including firefighters, who rushed towards the site of the attacks to help, many ultimately losing their lives.

A new study has been published by researchers investigating firefighters who worked at the site of the World Trade Center following the terrorist attacks. The study found that those firefighters who worked at the site of the attacks are 13 percent more likely than colleagues who didn't work at the site to develop cancer. More specifically, the firefighters are at a particularly higher risk for developing prostate and thyroid cancer.

Along with the increased incidence, firefighters who responded to the site of the attacks are also, on average, four years younger than their peers to be diagnosed with the diseases. Among the contaminants in the air at the site of the attacks that are believed to be contributing to the increased rate of cancers for the first responders are polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), asbestos, sulfuric acid, benzene, and arsenic.

The study reviewed new cancer cases in 10,786 firefighters from New York City who all worked at the World Trade Center site following the attacks. The study also looked at the rate of cancer in New York City firefighters who didn't work at the site of the attacks, finding that 8813 developed cancer. All of the participants in the study were part of the Career Firefighter Health Study.

Researchers also broke the numbers down by exposure level to toxins finding that on the morning of September 11, 2001, firefighters responding have the highest risk. The lowest risk firefighters working the scene was anytime after September 24, 2001. The study monitored the health of these firefighters until December 31, 2016, or their death.