Study: Cancer up among NYPD cops since 9/11

People wait in line to enter the 9/11 People wait in line to enter the 9/11 Memorial as One World Trade Center rises under construction following a ceremony at the New York City Police Memorial Wall in New York City. (Oct. 11, 2012) Photo Credit: Getty Images

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Cancers among NYPD officers involved in various recovery operations after the Sept. 11 terrorist strikes have increased five fold since the 2001 attacks, officials disclosed Monday.

A study of retirees and regular officers from 1995 to 2011 by the department medical staff in conjunction with Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University, also found that a certain type of thyroid cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma have increased 10 times and 3 1/2 times, respectively, since Sept. 11, 2001.

"This is an advisory that something has raised its head and police officers need to be aware of it," Dr. Eli Kleinman, the NYPD's chief surgeon said.

Kleinman and NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly announced a summary of the findings in a briefing with reporters Monday after Kelly had alluded to them during a regularly scheduled promotion ceremony at police headquarters.

While Kleinman said he was constrained by research restrictions from spelling out details of the survey, which covered a population of retirees and regular officers from 1995 to 2011, both he and Kelly said they wanted to get the word out now to police officers who were part of the recovery operations.

"The purpose of this announcement is to, number one, get people to pay attention to their health and if they are in that universe . . . get yourself checked out," said Kelly, who noted that there have been 57 officers who have died from what are believed to be illnesses linked to work at Ground Zero.

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Kleinman stressed that he wasn't ringing any alarm bells and that the incidences of cancers are relatively low, increasing for the one type of thyroid cancer from five cases to about 50 over the 16-year study period. A total of about 595 cancers of all types were uncovered in the study, he said. The study population dealt with about 34,000 officers, plus retirees.

"It is important for them to know that among the entities that we are concerned about, the thyroid and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, are the kinds of things that only show late in terms of symptoms," said Kleinman.

John Feal, who started the nonprofit Fealgood Foundation to help Sept. 11 first-responders and recovery workers get assistance, said the latest NYPD findings didn't come as a surprise.

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"Whether you are a cop, firefighter, construction worker or volunteer, those numbers have spiked for everybody," said Feal, who stressed that anyone eligible to apply for compensation under the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund must do so by Thursday.

A federally sponsored study of almost 21,000 World Trade Center rescue and recovery workers -- released in April -- found a 15 percent overall increased risk of cancer.

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