New York cops’ cancer rate soaring in wake of 9/11

By Rocco Parascandola New York Daily News

The cancer rate for cops has jumped fivefold in the decade since the World Trade Center’s twin towers collapsed, an NYPD study shows.

And there’s been a tenfold increase in cops diagnosed with thyroid cancer, while the number falling ill with non-Hodgkins lymphoma has gone up by a factor of 3 1/2.

An NYPD surgeon is sounding the alarm over the increased cancer rates, noting that most members of the department did rescue and recovery work at toxic sites post-9/11.

Early awareness is particularly important for these two cancers because they’re often symptomless until it’s too late, said Dr. Eli Kleinman, chief surgeon for the NYPD.

Kleinman and Cornell Weill Medical Center gathered the cancer information as part of an NYPD study that analyzed cancer rates among cops from 1995 to 2011.

The full results won’t be out for another few months, but Kleinman says it’s important information for cops to have sooner rather than later.

These cancers “only show up late in terms of symptoms,” he said. And they aren’t easily found during self-exams, he added.

His data included cops who toiled at Ground Zero as well as those at other dangerous sites, like Staten Island’s Fresh Kills landfill.

“It’s an advisory. I don’t want to be alarmist, but it’s important for them to know that even if you don’t have any symptoms or any signs you need to be monitored,” he said. “It’s important to be checked out.”

Before 9/11, the NYPD had five recorded thyroid cancer sufferers in its ranks. Since 2001, it’s had about 50, Kleinman said.

“The numbers are still small, but they’re significant enough in terms of the rate increase that we need to take a hard look at this and other diagnoses and see where this is going,” he said.

The study looked at retirees as well as serving cops.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said about 57 cops have died of Ground Zero cancers. About 500 have been diagnosed with some form of the disease since 9/11.

“Get yourself checked out,” the commissioner said bluntly.

Doctors even cross-referenced the thyroid diagnoses against zip codes to see if other environmental factors were at play — specifically, proximity to the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Westchester. None of the sick cops live within 25 miles of the plant.

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