Senior author Dr. David Prezant of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, chief medical officer of the Fire Department of the City of New York, and colleagues evaluated the health of 9,853 World Trade Center-exposed and non-exposed firefighters seven years following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
Many first responders, including about 12,500 FDNY firefighters, were exposed to potentially hazardous aerosolized dust consisting of pulverized cement, glass fibers, asbestos, lead, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls and polychlorinated furans and dioxins, produced as combustion byproducts from the collapsed and burning buildings.
They were also exposed to potentially toxic fumes -- initially from burning jet fuel and during the 10-month recovery effort, from diesel smoke emitted by heavy equipment.
Study investigators compared the cancer incidence rates in WTC-exposed firefighters with cancer incidence in non-exposed firefighters, and also with a sample resembling the firefighters with respect to age, race and ethnic origin for the control group.
The study, published in The Lancet, found cancer incidence among WTC-exposed male firefighters compared with cancer incidence in the general-population sample, had a 10 percent increased risk for all cancers combined. In the comparison between WTC-exposed and non-exposed FDNY firefighters, the cancer risk for the exposed firefighters was 19 percent greater.