August 19, 2009- Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation Blog
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 patients 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.