August 19, 2009

Perspective on 9/11 Emergency Workers and Increased Myeloma Risk, Anne Quinn Young, MPH

Over the last week, we have received many inquiries on the recent study “Multiple Myeloma in World Trade Center Responders: A Case Series” that indicates 9/11 emergency responders have an increased risk of developing multiple myeloma, a rare and fatal blood cancer. What this study shows is that out of more than 28,000 emergency workers who have been followed as part of a health monitoring program “9/11 WTC Health Registry“, eight cases of multiple myeloma were diagnosed.  In the general population, six or seven cases would have been expected.  Multiple myeloma in the general population is typically diagnosed in patiens who are at least in their 60s, but in this population, four of the cases were in workers who were less than 45 years old - in the general population, only one case in such young patients would be expected.

All of this said, it is important to understand that follow-up of these workers is limited, and more data are needed to better understand whether there may be a causal link. However, because multiple myeloma has been linked to exposure to very high levels of extremely toxic chemicals like Agent Orange or high levels of radiation exposure from the atomic bomb explosions in Japan, it is unfortunately not surprising given that these workers were exposed to what has been called a “toxic chemical soup” “9/11 Responders May Be At Raised Myeloma Risk“, which included known carcinogens, for up to several months.

The good news is that more progress than ever is being made in the disease - in recent years, survival from diagnosis has doubled - and so these and other patients who are diagnosed today will have many more treatment options in the future than those who sadly lost their battle with this as yet fatal disease.

To learn more about multiple myeloma, click here: http://www.themmrf.org/living-with-multiple-myeloma/newly-diagnosed-patients/what-is-multiple-myeloma/