Cancer incidence in World Trade Center-exposed and non-exposed male firefighters, as compared with the US adult male population: 2001-2016

Mayris P. Webber, Ankura Singh, Rachel Zeig-Owens, Joke Salako, Molly Skerker, Charles B. Hall, David G. Goldfarb, Nadia Jaber, Robert D. Daniels, David J. Prezant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: To compare cancer incidence in Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY) firefighters who worked at the World Trade Center (WTC) site to incidence in a population of non-WTC-exposed firefighters, the Career Firefighter Health Study (CFHS) cohort, and to compare rates from each firefighter cohort to rates in demographically similar US males. METHODS: FDNY (N=10 786) and CFHS (N=8813) cohorts included male firefighters who were active on 11 September 2001 (9/11) and were followed until death or 31 December 2016. Cases were identified from 15 state cancer registries. Poisson regression models assessed cancers in each group (FDNY and CFHS) versus US males, and associations between group and cancer rates; these models estimated standardised incidence ratios (SIRs) and adjusted relative rates (RRs), respectively. Secondary analyses assessed surveillance bias and smoking history. RESULTS: We identified 915 cancer cases in 841 FDNY firefighters and 1002 cases in 909 CFHS firefighters. FDNY had: higher rates for all cancers (RR=1.13; 95% CI 1.02 to 1.25), prostate (RR=1.39; 95% CI 1.19 to 1.63) and thyroid cancer (RR=2.53; 95% CI 1.37 to 4.70); younger median ages at diagnosis (55.6 vs 59.4; p<0.001, all cancers); and more cases with localised disease when compared with CFHS. Compared with US males, both firefighter cohorts had elevated SIRs for prostate cancer and melanoma. Control for surveillance bias in FDNY reduced most differences. CONCLUSIONS: Excess cancers occurred in WTC-exposed firefighters relative to each comparison group, which may partially be explained by heightened surveillance. Two decades post-9/11, clearer understanding of WTC-related risk requires extended follow-up and modelling studies (laboratory or animal based) to identify workplace exposures in all firefighters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)707-714
Number of pages8
JournalOccupational and Environmental Medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2021


  • epidemiology
  • firefighters
  • occupational health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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