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Ground Zero-related Cancers Have Tripled Since January 2014

Aug 19, 2016

More than 5,400 Ground Zero responders and others who lived, worked, or attended school near the fallen Twin Towers are known to have developed 9/11-linked cancers. The cancer tally has tripled in the past two and a half years. Many others who spent time in the area south of Canal Street in the months after 9/11 have also developed cancer and are may be unaware that their cancer could be related to the tragic events of 9/11 and its aftermath.

As of June 30, 2016, 5,441 people enrolled in the WTC Health Program have been diagnosed with 6,378 separate cancers, the New York Post reports. Some people have more than cancer, according to officials. That total is up from 1,822 cancer cases in January 2014.

Dr. Michael Crane, medical director of the WTC Health Program at Mount Sinai Hospital, called this "an alarming increase." Dr. Crane told the Post that for the last year and a half every week the program had 10 to 15 new people being certified for cancer.

The WTC Health Program now monitors more than 48,000 police, construction workers, volunteer firefighters, utility workers and others who worked or volunteered at Ground Zero. The FDNY has its own 9/11 health program with 16,000 members.

The federal government has listed more than 50 types of cancer believed to be related to the toxic smoke and dust present on and after 9/11. People with these cancers may seek payments from the 9/11 ¬Victim Compensation Fund, the Post reports.

One veteran firefighter has advanced kidney cancer that has spread through his body. He told the Post he considers himself lucky because, "I’ve had 15 years with my kids after 9/11, and I’m still here with Stage 4 cancer." Ray Pfeifer has undergone 11 surgeries, including a kidney removal, hip, femur and knee replacement and radiation for a brain tumor.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, Pfeifer-who was off that day-rushed downtown to join the effort to find survivors. He stayed for the next nine days, sleeping on a rig. He then worked for eight months in the search for remains.

He brushed off early symptoms of illness like a cough and shortness of breath, but in 2009, when he suffered hip pain, his doctors found a baseball-size tumor. He continued to work until 2014, when a chemotherapy-induced heart attack forced his retirement.

Another cancer victim was an 18-year-old freshman at Pace University on September 11, 2001. She was covered with white dust on the day the towers fell. At age 31, during a caesarean birth, her doctor discovered that the woman had appendix cancer. She underwent a hysterectomy, removal of other organs, and a chemo bath in her abdominal cavity, the Post reports. She and her husband froze four embryos and now hope to have another child through surrogacy.

Researchers have found that the 9/11 community is experiencing prostate and thyroid cancer, leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma at a significantly higher rate than expected in the normal population.

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, reauthorized by Congress in December 2015, provides health care, health monitoring, and compensation to 9/11 responders and survivors. The reauthorization extends the World Trade Center Health Program through 2090. The Victim Compensation Fund would have expired in October 2016, but has been extended five more years to provide benefits to first responders too sick to work. To be eligible to file a claim, individuals must register with the VCF by the applicable deadline. The registration deadline depends on the individual claimant’s circumstances, including date of cancer diagnosis.

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