Head and Neck Cancers Coverage from Every Angle
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Study Identifies Risk Factors for Head/Neck Cancer in World Trade Center Responders

By: Kayci Reyer
Posted: Thursday, October 31, 2019

According to a nested case-control study published in Occupational & Environmental Medicine, several factors associated with increased risk of head and neck cancer development in general responders to the 2001 World Trade Center (WTC) attacks have been identified. The identification of these factors—occupation in the protective services, arrival on site on September 11 rather than later, lifetime and post-WTC years of cigarette smoking, and higher numbers of sexual partners after the WTC effort—may help physicians at the WTC Health Program to determine high-risk patients as well as to improve detection and treatment outcomes.

“Our study, and many others, demonstrate that even now, almost 2 decades after the 9/11 attacks, new health consequences of the WTC attacks are emerging,” noted Michelle T. Bover Manderski, PhD, of Rutgers University, in an institutional press release. “This underscores the importance of long-term health monitoring of disaster survivors and responders.”

The study included 200 participants, 64 of whom were active cases and 136 who acted as controls. Data were collected from all participants regarding behavioral risk factors such as smoking, alcohol use, and sexual activity before, during, and after their work as a WTC responder. In addition, researchers gathered information on the duration and location of each participant’s exposure at Ground Zero.

Overall, participants who worked in protective services had the highest odds of developing head and neck cancer (odds ratio = 2.51, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.09–5.82). For participants in occupations other than protective service, the date of their arrival to the WTC affected their overall risk. Those who arrived at Ground Zero on September 11, 2001, had a significantly increased risk of head and neck cancer (odds ratio = 3.77, 95% CI = 1.00–14.11) compared with those who arrived after September 11. For all participants, those who were lifetime or post-terrorist attack smokers experienced a significantly higher risk of developing head and neck cancer. In addition, a meaningful positive association was noted between head and neck cancer risk and the number of sexual partners after the 2001 attacks.

Disclosure: The study authors reported no conflicts of interest.

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