Ground Zero Cancer Study Reveals Misunderstandings of 9/11 and Cancer
The mass media grab has stated that the study means there is no risk of cancer for those exposed to the World Trade Center bombings. This illustrates a lack of understanding not only of the study, but of the rest of the research surrounding the event.
The preliminary data, released the New York City Health Commissioner’s office and researchers from the New York Health Department, Columbia University and the University of Illinois, might appear from its cursory overview that those exposed to the Ground Zero dust after the attack have no more cancer risk than those who were not exposed to the dust.
The research, published yesterday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, analyzed the diagnosis rates of cancer among 21,850 first responders and rescue workers, and 33,928 rescue/recovery operation personnel. The analysis used 11 state cancer registries to establish baseline risk of the cancers.
Contrary to the media headlines, the analysis found that those involved in the WTC rescue and recovery operations had significantly higher incidence of prostate cancer, thyroid cancer, and myeloma. However, the data could not relate the risk to exposure levels.
The researchers clearly stated that the data was preliminary and could not clarify the issue because cancer takes many years to develop. According to Dr. Thomas Farley, New York City’s health commissioner, the data “won’t settle the question because it’s still too early.” Dr. Farley explained to the Associated Press that, “People are very, very interested in this topic and we thought it was important to get the data out that we have even though it is early.”
Other researchers confirmed this finding. The data comes from 2007-2008 cancer registries. This means that only those who were diagnosed with cancer before 2008 showed up in the data. That is only 5-6 years after the Trade Center bombings.
Malignancies typically take years, even decades to become diagnosable. Everyone is carrying malignant cells in our body, as our immune system is set up to destroy malignant cells. Those whose immune systems are weak or otherwise incapacitated due to an overload of toxins, stress or other immune suppression will allow those malignant cells to expand slowly into tumors.
It is only when those tumors have greatly expanded can doctors diagnose them. This expansion largely depends upon the type of malignancy, but typically can take many years to develop.
For toxic exposures that take place over a short period of time, most people’s immune systems will respond appropriately and remove much of the toxins form the body’s tissues. Those with a longer duration of exposure or had weaker immune systems will experience problems with this toxin removal, as the toxin overload may be greater than the immune system can process. Of these, inflammation and potentially, tumors may develop as a result of an unsuccessful inflammatory process (as the body conducts inflammation to heal itself).
The data from the study is consistent with this scenario. WTC first responders had 14% higher rates of all cancers compared to standard incidence ratios. First responders also had twice the incidence of thyroid cancer, 43% higher rates of prostate cancer, and nearly three times the incidence of thyroid cancer compared to normal incidence of these cancers.
Furthermore, those who were in the WTC registry for exposure but were not first responders did not have a significant increase in any of the cancers. These were primarily individuals who had varying degrees of exposure because they lived or worked in the area of the bombings. Thus their exposures were typically limited to the day of the bombing, and in some cases – for those who remained in the area – a few days following the bombing.
This compares greatly to those who worked as rescue or recovery workers, whose exposures often occurred for more than 90 days following the bombings.
A one, or even a few days of exposure should not, in most people, result in immediate malignancies, because short toxin exposures are typically within the tolerance of the immune system. As a comparison, many will gather around a campfire that releases many potentially carcinogenic toxins from the wood and paper being burnt. This toxin exposure may stimulate the immune system to remove those toxins, but will unlikely create malignancies. In comparison, those who work in incineration occupations will have significantly greater rates of malignancies and cancer – as we’ve reported in Realnatural News.
However, should a person have other immunosuppression and/or a build up of other toxins within the body, then their immune system will likely not be able to remove any cell malignancies related to the exposure. They will have an increased risk of cancer, and the exposure helped increase that risk.
Yet this increased risk will not significantly increase the short-term incidence of cancer because their exposure levels were not long-term. In these cases, their cancer rates would correspond to their accumulated toxin exposures along with their relative immunity over those years. Thus we might find in 15-20 years that those who were exposed to the WTC bombing cloud might have elevated risks of cancer due to their short-term exposures, but that increased level would likely be masked by the more long-term exposures each person would have had since.
These long-term exposures include air pollutants, formaldehydes, toxins in foods and so forth. And their ability to remove those toxins would overlay that long-term exposure.
Other data has confirmed that the longer exposures produced many other significant health risks. These include sarcoidosis – an inflammatory lung condition that can develop into malignancies. A study released last year from the New York City Health Department found that first responders suffered sarcoidosis nine times the normal incidence.
This study also found that those with short-term exposure to the dust cloud of the bombings had no increased risk of sarcoidosis.
This and other data relating to cancer and toxin exposure significantly relates to not only long-term exposure levels, but to the strength of our immune systems. Strengthening the immune system requires a focus upon a number of key health factors.
Written by Case Adams, Naturopath
Jiehui Li, MBBS, MSc; James E. Cone, MD, MPH; Amy R. Kahn, MS; Robert M. Brackbill, PhD, MPH; Mark R. Farfel, ScD; Carolyn M. Greene, MD; James L. Hadler, D, MPH; Leslie T. Stayner, PhD; Steven D. Stellman, PhD, MPH. Association Between World Trade Center Exposure and Excess Cancer Risk. JAMA. 2012;308(23):2479-2488.
Jordan HT, Stellman SD, Prezant D, Teirstein A, Osahan SS, Cone JE. Sarcoidosis diagnosed after September 11, 2001, among adults exposed to the World Trade Center disaster. J Occup Environ Med. 2011 Sep;53(9):966-74.
Adams C. Living Immunity: Supercharging Our Body’s Defenses with Probiotics and Other Natural Strategies. Logical Books, 2011.