TUESDAY, Dec. 18 (HealthDay News) -- The workers who toiled at the World Trade Center site after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks may have higher-than-average risks of certain cancers, health officials reported.
Using data from an ongoing health study of World Trade Center survivors and recovery workers, researchers found that, overall, people's risk of developing cancer was no higher than the norm.
But among the nearly 22,000 rescue and recovery workers, there were elevated risks of three cancers: prostate cancer; thyroid cancer; and multiple myeloma, a type of blood cell cancer.
The findings, reported in the Dec. 19 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, are based on small numbers. Overall, 67 men developed prostate cancer, while only 13 workers developed thyroid cancer, and seven developed multiple myeloma. That makes it tougher to reach statistically solid findings.
And it's not certain that exposure to toxic compounds at the site caused the excess cancer risks, said senior researcher Steven Stellman, research director for the New York City health department's World Trade Center Health Registry.
He noted that the study is "observational," which means the researchers looked at cancer rates in the group and tried to account for other factors in anyone's cancer risk -- such as age and smoking habits.
Even with those factors weighed, rescue and recovery workers still had elevated risks compared with the norms for New York state: a 43 percent higher risk of prostate cancer, and more than double the risk of thyroid cancer and multiple myeloma.
But there's still a lot to be learned, according to Stellman. It will take years for researchers to understand the extent of any cancer risks from exposure to the World Trade Center wreckage.
"It's really too early to make any definitive statements," Stellman said.
Other experts agreed.
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