By Steve Milloy
April 24, 2013, New York Post
Are 9/11 responders at greater risk of cancer from their Ground Zero exposures? Or are they at greater risk of cancer from excessive post-9/11 medical testing?
Mt. Sinai School of Medicine researchers reported this week that 9/11 responders have so far had 15 percent more cancer than people not exposed to Ground Zero. One study author told the media, “Just seven years after the attack, our study has shown an increase in cancer even at this early stage.”
Until you read the fine print, anyway.
In fact, the reported increase was observed primarily in thyroid, prostate and blood cancers. None of the other reported excesses in cancer type are statistically significant — meaning they could easily be the product of chance.
There was also no excess in cancer reported for those who worked longest on the site, which one would expect to see if rescue work was actually associated with cancer risk. Nor was level of exposure to site fumes and dust associated with increased cancer risk, either.
What of the statistically significant increases?
Prostate cancer is a common cancer with myriad possible causes — none of which are occupational in nature. So there is no biological explanation for how 9/11 rescue work could possibly influence prostate cancer risk.
In fact, the authors admitted in the fine print of their study, “It is well recognized that in heavily screened populations, prostate and endocrine cancers are diagnosed more frequently than in populations subjected to less rigorous screening.”
That is, if you do a lot of tests, you’re more likely to find these cancers.
Similarly, the reported increase in incidence of thyroid cancer is likely a figment of the excessive medical monitoring to which 9/11 responders have been subjected. Yes, more thyroid nodules than expected were detected among the group, but the group was examined more than usual. Though the key risk factor for thyroid cancer is radiation exposure, no heightened radiation level was detected at Ground Zero.
Further, the mere existence of a thyroid nodule doesn’t mean that the nodule is cancerous in nature. A nodule could very well be benign — and the researchers failed to differentiate the reported nodules.
For the blood cancers, the reported results were again statistically insignificant for the different types of cancer (e.g., Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and leukemia); they only became marginally significant when all the different types of blood cancer were lumped together. This is a dubious result, since if an exposure causes cancer, it more than likely causes a specific type of cancer, not all types.
Contrary to how the study was pitched to the media, it reports nothing of interest except that the Mt. Sinai researchers want to keep receiving taxpayer money: “Our findings highlight the need for continued follow-up.”
In fact, this research scam ought to be shut down. Rescue workers, generally, are not known to experience any greater risk of cancer from occupational exposures. There has never been any reason to believe that 9/11 responders are any different.
And 9/11-related injuries are already cared for at public expense, so there is no need to add junk science to injury.
Steve Milloy publishes JunkScience.com.