9/11 and Cancer
22 years ago today, the unthinkable happened. Terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Centers in New York City, the Pentagon, and, if the attempt had not been thwarted by some heroic passengers on Flight 93, they would have flown a plane into the White House in Washington D.C. The death toll from the World Trade Centers, the Pentagon, and the innocent people on those planes that day was about 2,925 people. 343 firefighters and 71 law enforcement officers were lost when the World Trade Centers collapsed. Sirius, a bomb-sniffing law enforcement canine, was one of the fatalities.
But those are not the only people that were affected by those terrorist attacks. Elizabeth Cascio, an emergency medical technician (EMT) responded with her team to the World Trade Centers. She spent about a month working there, helping with recovery efforts. In 2019, she was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer that her doctors said was linked to her work on and during the days immediately following the attack. Thankfully, with treatment, the tumor shrank, and she survived. She is now Chief of Staff for the Fire Department of New York City (FDNY). To read more about Elizbeth’s story, follow this link: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2021/09/06/1034556283/a-study-says-9-11-first-responders-survive-cancers-at-higher-rates-why
Elizabeth Cascio is just one of tens of thousands of people who worked in recovery and clean-up at the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon, thousands of whom came down with cancer and illnesses related to that work. She was part of a three-year study funded by the WTC Health Program, a component of NIOSH.
This study had some interesting findings. Some cancer risks were found to have increased with post-9/11 workers, such as tonsil cancer, that was higher than the rates reported for the State of New York. The study confirmed that thyroid and prostate cancer, and skin melanoma rates were higher in the study group. But here is what is significant:
· The rate of lung cancer was less than the rest of New York state.
· Cancer patients in the study group had increased survival rates. Prostrate, lung, kidney, and colorectal cancers had mortality rates that were between 26 – 64% lower.
The study surmised that the improved recovery rates and the lower fatality rates were due to two factors. First, fewer of the fire department and law enforcement officers in the study group smoked cigarettes. Second, more of them had a healthier lifestyle that included a well-balanced diet and exercise.
Here is the safety tip for this week:
· If you smoke, vape, or have other sources of tobacco – quit now!
· Use sunscreen.
· If you drink alcohol – do so in moderation under the advisement of your doctor.
· Eat a healthy diet, with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
· Be physically active. Walk, jog, play sports, etc.
· Review this link from Cancer.gov for more tips. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/patient-prevention-overview-pdq
Plan to prevent cancer. The risk of cancer is around us, and some of us have a higher risk factor due to family histories. But, like any other safety concern, we can take steps to prevent and lower our risks. Do it for yourself and for your loved ones.
Do it to honor those who lost their lives 22 years ago today.