The main objective of this three-year research project is to analyze the cohorts of FDNY firefighters and EMS workers, both WTC-exposed and non-WTC exposed in order to compare cancer incidence by WTC-exposure status during the early post-9/11 years. To achieve this objective, we intend to conduct longitudinal surveillance of cancer diagnoses in WTC-exposed and non-WTC-exposed individuals through 2008 and later, as data become available.
We examined cancer incidence and its potential association with World Trade Center (WTC) exposure in the first 7 years after 9/11 in firefighters with health information before 9/11 and minimal loss to follow-up. We reported a modest excess of cancer cases in the WTC-exposed cohort compared with the US population. We remain cautious in our interpretation of this finding because the time since 9/11 is short for cancer outcomes, and the reported excess of cancers is not limited to specific organ types. As in any observational study, we cannot rule out the possibility that effects in the exposed group might be due to unidentified confounders. Continued follow-up will be important and should include cancer screening and prevention strategies.
The results will help to clarify whether WTC responders have an increased risk of cancer, and specifically (i) to identify cancers (if any) at increased risk, (ii) to quantify the magnitude of the associations, and (iii) to identify characteristics of WTC exposure which are more strongly associated with cancer risk. This information will be important to establish preventive actions such as enhanced medical surveillance and targeted screening. Although the study is conducted in occupationally exposed responders, the results will be relevant to other individuals exposed to the WTC attacks.
Zeig-Owens R, Webber M, Hall C, et al. 2011. Early assessment of cancer outcomes in New York City firefighters after the 9/11 attacks: An observational cohort study. Lancet. 378(9794):898–905.