Ruling Adds Cancer to 9/11 Health Benefits

Fifty-eight types of cancer are now on the official list of covered illnesses for people who were exposed to toxins at the World Trade Center site after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The ruling follows the recommendation of an advisory committee of experts who reviewed scientific and medical evidence.

This means people who developed cancer after exposure to the toxic ash can apply for benefits from the World Trade Center Health Program. The program was created with a $4.3 billion fund set up to compensate people – including rescue workers, volunteers, and residents – who became sick in the aftermath of the disaster.

The dust and smoke from the collapse of the twin towers contained asbestos, lead, and other cancer-causing materials. However, it’s not easy to prove a diagnosis of cancer came from exposure to the dust and smoke, and not from some other cause. Last September, medical researchers from New York City published a study showing that firefighters who responded to the attacks had about a 19% greater risk of developing cancer than firefighters who did not work at the site. But they were cautious about the results because they followed the firefighters for just 7 years after 9/11, and cancer can take decades to develop.

In a written statement, World Trade Center Program Administrator John Howard, MD said, “We recognize how personal the issue of cancer and all of the health conditions related to the World Trade Center tragedy are to 9/11 responders, survivors and their loved ones.”

Among the 58 cancer types to be covered are breast, colon, lung, skin, ovarian, esophagus, and stomach cancer. There was not enough evidence to include prostate, brain, or pancreatic cancer on the list. These and other cancer types could be added later if more evidence is found.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
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