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9/11 first responders face twice the risk of blood ceter

34,000 Americans will be diagnosed with multiple myeloma this year, and 13,000 will die from it. 9/11 responders face much greater risk.

MIAMI — Multiple myeloma is cancer of the plasma cells in the blood. 34,000 Americans will be diagnosed with the disease this year, and 13,000 will die from it. Now, researchers say 9/11 first responders may be at much higher risk for developing the cancer.

Sept. 11 is a day no American will forget. Now, 21 years later, scientists say first responders may be more likely to suffer from environmental exposures from carcinogens at the disaster site, putting them at risk for multiple myeloma.

“Multiple myeloma is the second most common blood cancer that happens in adults," C. Ola Landgren, MD, PhD, at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center of the University of Miami, said.

Dr. Landgren led a team of researchers screening the blood of consenting first responders, then firefighters in an initial study, and then, other men and women who were on site, including police officers and EMS personnel. The blood tests showed high rates of myeloma precursor disease, which indicates someone is at risk for developing myeloma.

“That risk was about two times higher compared to the general population,” Dr. Landgren further explained.

There is no cure for multiple myeloma. Dr. Landgren said the study's findings suggest that all emergency workers who will be exposed to high levels of carcinogens need to protect their lungs and skin.

“If this is part of the job that individuals have, that they will be provided with appropriate protection devices and also that they use these devices," Dr. Landgren added.

Some of the symptoms of multiple myeloma include pain in the back or bones, fatigue, anemia, and loss of appetite. Treatments include chemotherapy and immunotherapy.

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