In the months following the September 11th terrorist attacks, thousands of brave firefighters, emergency responders, and volunteers assisted in cleaning up the New York City disaster area. Working for weeks on the pile/pit of rubble, they were exposed to burning materials, microscopic pieces of glass, and aerosolized toxins like mercury, asbestos, and lead. Years later, these first responders are falling victim to serious health conditions like skin cancer as a result of their service. Furthermore, those who were not responders but resided, worked, or studied in Lower Manhattan likewise were exposed to harmful carcinogens that cause skin cancer.
If you or a loved one are suffering from skin cancer, and you were present as a responder or survivor in the Lower Manhattan Exposure Zone, you may be entitled to compensation from the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. The legal team at Weisfuse and Weisfuse, LLP, has dedicated their legal practice to aiding the 9/11 community. Our skilled VCF lawyers will prosecute your claim so that you receive the medical benefits and compensation you deserve for your 9/11-related skin cancer. Contact us today at 212-983-3000 for a free and confidential consultation about your eligibility for a 9/11 skin cancer claim.
What is Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer is a condition in which mutated (cancerous) cells grow at an uncontrollable rate in the skin. There are two types of skin cancer: non-melanoma skin cancer and melanoma skin cancer.
Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer
Non-melanoma skin cancer (keratinocyte carcinoma) is commonly caused by overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. This skin cancer has two subtypes:
- Basal cell carcinoma, which affects the inner skin cells often found on the head and neck; and
- Squamous cell carcinoma, which affects the cells located in the outermost layer of the epidermis.
While basal cell carcinoma tends to spread slowly, squamous cell carcinoma is more aggressive and likely to spread to other parts of the body.
Melanoma Skin Cancer
Although melanoma skin cancer is much less common than non-melanoma, it is far more dangerous. In fact, melanoma skin cancer makes up only one percent of all skin cancer cases but accounts for 73 percent of skin cancer deaths.
This type of skin cancer begins in the melanocyte skin cells, which create pigment. For this reason, melanoma often presents as an irregular mole that changes its size and shape over time.
There are four subtypes of melanoma, classified by the frequency of occurrence, lesion characteristics, and location on the body:
- Superficial spreading melanoma, the most prevalent type;
- Lentigo maligna melanoma;
- Nodular melanoma; and
- Acral lentiginous melanoma, the least prevalent type.
Symptoms of Skin Cancer
The symptoms of skin cancer vary by type, although basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma can be hard to distinguish. Non-melanoma skin cancer symptoms include:
- Skin-colored or translucent bumps on the head and neck that may rupture, ooze, bleed, or scab (common in basal cell carcinoma);
- Rough, red, scaly lesions on the head, ears, lips, neck, and hands (common in squamous cell carcinoma); and
- Precancerous conditions such as actinic keratosis: red and rough patches on the skin that can develop into squamous cell carcinoma.
The most ubiquitous symptom of melanoma skin cancer is the appearance of suspicious moles, which may have any of the following characteristics:
- Asymmetrical form;
- Inconsistent color;
- Uneven or indistinct borders; and
- A constantly morphing size or shape.
Non-melanoma and melanoma skin cancers rank among the top three most common cancers among 9/11 first responders. The World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP) covers all malignant skin cancers as 9/11-related health conditions. If you are suffering from non-melanoma or melanoma skin cancer, speak with an experienced 9/11 skin cancer attorney at Weisfuse & Weisfuse, LLP about enrolling in the WTCHP and registering with the VCF.
How Is Skin Cancer Diagnosed?
Performing regular self-examinations of the skin is good practice, as it familiarizes you with how your skin looks and feels under normal conditions. You are more likely to catch the early warning signs of skin cancer if you make skin exams a regular part of your wellness routine.
If you notice an irregularity in your skin, such as a painful and persistent lesion or a suspicious mole, make an appointment with your doctor or dermatologist right away. Your doctor will examine the affected area closely, noting its color, size, and shape, and may ask you when you noticed the change. They will also inspect the rest of your skin for any other areas of concern.
If the doctor believes that growth or lesion looks suspicious, they may remove all or part of the affected area, and send the tissue sample to the lab for a biopsy. Removing a mole is a relatively simple, non-invasive procedure, and it can be completed at the same appointment as your skin exam. A laboratory technician will examine the tissue sample to determine if the growth is benign or cancerous.
If your doctor concludes that you have skin cancer, he or she may order imaging procedures, such as an MRI or CT scan, to observe how far cancer has spread in your body. Ascertaining the type of skin cancer you have, whether the cancer has spread, is crucial to choosing an effective treatment.
How is Skin Cancer Treated?
Most types of skin cancer require surgical intervention, but the type and stage of cancer will determine how invasive the procedure must be. If you are in the early stages of non-melanoma skin cancer, you may only require minor surgery or mole removal. In very mild cases, your doctor may simply prescribe non-invasive procedures such as light therapy, topical and oral medications, or small doses of radiation.
However, if your skin cancer has spread to other parts of your body, or if you have melanoma skin cancer, your doctor will likely choose a more aggressive treatment plan. A surgical team will operate on you to remove the cancerous growths, and you may undergo chemotherapy and radiation to eradicate the remaining cancer cells.
The prognosis for non-melanoma skin cancer is quite favorable. Due to its slow growth, basal cell carcinoma is very treatable, and most patients require minimal intervention to eradicate their cancer. If caught early, squamous cell carcinoma responds similarly well to treatment, although it may require more invasive therapies to successfully eliminate the disease. A melanoma patient’s prognosis depends on how quickly they received a diagnosis, with rates of survival decreasing sharply as the disease progresses.
Recurrence in skin cancer patients is common, regardless of type. As such, monitoring your skin for further signs of change is imperative once you have entered remission. Maintaining follow-up appointments with your doctor and performing regular self-exams could prove lifesaving.
9/11 and Skin Cancer Development
By a wide margin, non-melanoma skin cancer is the most common cancer found in 9/11 first responders. While it’s still unclear what specific circumstances led to such an alarming disparity, we can assume that prolonged exposure to the noxious dust at Ground Zero contributed to these health outcomes. Furthermore, those responders who are biologically predisposed to skin cancer, such as individuals with fair skin or a family history of the illness, are at a higher risk for contracting the disease.
In addition, non-melanoma skin cancer is the third most common cancer among survivors: those who lived, worked, and studied in the New York City Exposure Zone in the months following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Due to its many environmental triggers, skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in the general population. Those who have already experienced exposure to skin carcinogens, such as 9/11 survivors, are therefore at an even greater risk of developing the condition.
VCF Compensation Available For 9/11 Skin Cancer Claims
The high incidence of skin cancer in the 9/11 community requires particular attention and care. If you lived or worked in the New York City Exposure Zone between September 11, 2001 and May 30, 2002, you may qualify for free medical treatment for your skin cancer. The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) and the WTCHP offer compensation and treatment to responders and survivors suffering from 9/11-related skin cancer.
At Weisfuse and Weisfuse, LLP, we believe in helping 9/11 victims obtain the benefits they are entitled to. Our skilled 9/11 Fund lawyers have assisted victims of 9/11 in prosecuting their 9/11 skin cancer claims. We are committed to recovering maximum compensation so that you can focus on healing. Call Weisfuse and Weisfuse, LLP, today at 212-983-3000 for a free and confidential consultation regarding your 9/11 skin cancer claim.