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Firefighters working at Ground Zero more likely to develop cancer, study finds

November 23, 2021 | Michael Barasch

Firefighters who worked at the World Trade Center (WTC) site on or after 9/11 have a 13 percent higher risk of cancer, especially prostate and thyroid cancer, according to a recent study.

The study, published in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine, also found the WTC firefighters were diagnosed nearly four years earlier than other firefighters who had cancer.

Firefighters are often exposed to toxins while on the job, but researchers found that Ground Zero was a uniquely toxic environment. 

The air at Ground Zero site contained asbestos, arsenic, benzene, sulfuric acid, and many other known carcinogens.

Researchers looked at 10,786 firefighters who worked at the WTC site on and after 9/11, compared with 8,813 firefighters who were not at the site. 

WTC firefighters had higher rates for all cancers, including kidney cancer, lung cancer, melanoma, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, prostate cancer and thyroid cancer.

The rates at which WTC firefighters were diagnosed with prostate cancer and thyroid cancer were, respectively, 1.39 times higher and 2.53 times higher than otherwise.

In addition, WTC firefighters were diagnosed at a median age of 55.6, compared to non-WTC firefighters, who were diagnosed at a median age of 59.4.

If you are a 9/11 first responder or survivor, please share this information with your primary health care provider. We urge you to take this seriously and spread the word. 

If you are diagnosed with any of the 68 9/11-related cancers or with a respiratory illness, we can help you access resources through the free World Trade Center Health Program and the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund. 

Visit or call 212-385-8000 today.

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