Can the catastrophe of 9/11 cause cancers in the survivors of that devastating day? The debris and dust on Ground Zero and the fires that engulfed the structures affected by the disaster contained many substances and chemicals (like benzene, asbestos and silica) that can go on to cause cancers if they are breathed in or swallowed. The chances of cancer are still quite small, but are likely to be higher than in the population unaffected by the events.
Among the first cancers to arise would be blood or lymph related cancers like leukemia and lymphoma. Some types of lymphoma are known to be related to exposure to chemicals (See Risk Factors for Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma). These are likely to happen within the next decade or so. Solid tumor cancers will take much longer to happen. A major study has been started in New York City by the Health Department to identify cancers that arise in those who were 9/11 responders and many others who lived or worked near the World Trade Center. There are more than 70,000 individuals registered in the WTC Health Registry. There may not be a good way to reduce the risk of cancers, but some good methods of tracking cancers may help to identify them early and greatly improve the chances of cure.