9/11 Responders May Have Higher Head and Neck Cancer Risk

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Emergency personnel who responded to the 9/11 terrorist attacks may be at a higher risk of certain head and neck cancers.
Emergency personnel who responded to the 9/11 terrorist attacks may be at a higher risk of certain head and neck cancers.

(HealthDay News) -- There may be a significant, emerging risk for human papillomavirus (HPV)-related head and neck cancers (HNC) among workers and volunteers who responded to the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center (WTC), according to a study recently published in the International Journal of Cancer.

Judith M. Graber, Ph.D., from the Rutgers School of Public Health in Piscataway, New Jersey, and colleagues compared site-specific incidence of HNC (2003 through 2012) among 33,809 participants in the WTC General Responder Cohort (73 individuals with HNC) and patients in the New Jersey State Cancer Registry.

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The researchers did not observe an overall excess of HNC (standardized incidence ratio [SIR], 1.00; 95 percent confidence interval [CI], 0.78 to 1.25). However, excess cancer was seen during the most recent observation period (2009 to 2012: SIR, 1.4; 95 percent CI, 1.01 to 1.89). A similar time-related pattern was seen for HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer and laryngeal cancer, but not for non-HPV-related sites (oral-nasal cancer). There was a significant association between HNC and increasing age (8 percent per year; 95 percent CI, 5 to 12 percent) and non-Hispanic white race (hazard ratio, 3.51; 95 percent CI, 1.49 to 8.27). A weaker association was noted between a 9/11 occupation of military/protective services versus other occupations (hazard ratio, 1.83; 95 percent CI, 0.99 to 3.38; P = 0.0504).

"Since cancers are diseases of long latency, the findings of significant excess cancer in this period point to a newly emerging trend that requires ongoing monitoring and treatment of WTC-exposed persons," Graber said in a statement.

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