Your Health: 9/11 first responders at greater risk for blood cancer

Published: Oct. 18, 2022 at 5:29 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Multiple myeloma is cancer of the plasma cells in the blood. An estimated 34,000 Americans will be diagnosed with it in 2022 and 13,000 will die from it.

Researchers believe 9/11 first responders may be at a much-higher risk for developing the cancer.

Sept. 11, 2001 is a day no American will forget. 21 years later, scientists believe first responders may be more likely to suffer from environmental exposures from carcinogens at the disaster site, putting them at risk for multiple myeloma.

Dr. C. Ola Landgren led a team of researchers screening the blood of consenting first responders - firefighters in an initial study, then other men and women who were on site, including police officers and medical personnel. The blood tests showed high rates of myeloma precursor disease, which indicates someone is at risk for developing myeloma.

“Multiple myeloma is the second most common blood cancer that happen in adults,” Landgren said. “That risk was about two times higher compared to the general population.”

There is no cure for multiple myeloma. Landgren said the study findings suggest that all emergency workers who will be exposed to high levels of carcinogens need to protect their lungs and skin.

Some symptoms of multiple myeloma include pain in the back or bones, fatigue, anemia and loss of appetite. Treatments include chemotherapy and immunotherapy.

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