Cancer in NYPD Since 9/11: Study Indicates a Fivefold Increase

October 12, 2015

Police Cancer Up Since 9/11 Study Indicates a Fivefold Increase of Cancers

Written by Tamer El-Ghobashy of The Wall Street Journal

A forthcoming study is expected to show that New York Police Department members who spent time at the site of the World Trade Center terrorist attack in 2001 are developing cancer at a significantly higher rate than before the attack. According to preliminary results, NYPD personnel are showing a fivefold increase of cancers in general in the decade since the attack, compared with the six years that preceded it, police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said on Monday.

The subjects of the study showed a tenfold increase in one form of thyroid cancer in particular, and a 3.5 fold increase in non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, said Eli Klienman, the NYPD's supervising chief surgeon. "The numbers are still small, but they're significant enough in terms of the rate increase that we have to take a hard look at this and other diagnoses and see where it's going," he said. Dr. Klienman said the full results of the study, conducted by the department in conjunction with the Cornell Weill Medical Center, are still months away but the NYPD decided to discuss them publicly in advance as an "advisory" to its members.

"Most members of the department were at one point or another somehow involved" in the clean up and security of the World Trade Center site and "half of the people who were exposed are already retired so this also looks at retirees as well," Dr. Klienman said. Mr. Kelly announced the statistics at a ceremony promoting NYPD officers and civilian employees to higher ranks. The event is typically attended by dozens of family members. "The purpose of this announcement is to get people, number one, to pay attention to their health and if they're in that universe of individuals…it's important that they get themselves checked," Mr. Kelly later said an unrelated news conference.

Officers from the NYPD have long complained of cancer developing after their time at what was known as ground zero—the massive pit created by the collapse of the Twin Towers. Mr. Kelly said 57 officers died of cancer and more than 500 have since been diagnosed. In 2012, some forms of cancer—including thyroid cancer and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma—were added to the list of illnesses covered the by James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which provides compensation and health-care costs for people sickened as a result of the attacks. The $4.3 billion fund was created in 2010 and is named after an NYPD detective who died after working at the site. The city and federal government has long fought efforts to link cancer to the exposure to ground zero toxins. In December, the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene released a study showing increased rates of some cancers among recovery workers, but said there was no clear link to toxic debris. *This article was published online in The Wall Street Journal on September 30, 2013.