In the first study of its kind, 9/11 responders at the World Trade Center are suffering increased symptoms of dementia at a younger age, results doctors call "staggering."

The findings revealed in the journal Alzheimer's & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring, suggest that 3,740-5,300 first responders will suffer from potentially debilitating cognitive impairment and 240-810 individuals will get hit with dementia.

The 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks is next month.

The report, provided to Secrets by the Alzheimer's Association, suggest that the PTSD and dementia suffered by 9/11 responders is similar to what war veterans face.

"These numbers are staggering, considering that the average age of responders was 53 during this study," said study co-author Sean A. Clouston, assistant professor at Stony Brook University.

According to the study authors, one-fifth of of the World Trade Center first responders on September 11, 2001, subsequently developed PTSD.

"Thousands of responders who helped in search, rescue, and cleanup efforts after the World Trade Center were exposed to an extraordinary array of psychological traumas and toxic exposures. Although few were physically injured by their efforts, many responders witnessed the disaster or death and dismemberment of others, helped civilians flee, lost colleagues in the tower collapse, and dug through debris to search for survivors. Since then, researchers examining WTC responders have found high rates of chronic PTSD," said the study.

Concerned about those responders getting worse, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention opened a program a year later that some 33,000 responders have enrolled in.

The study looked at 813 of those responders for indicators of dementia and cognitive impairment [CI].

What they found: "Approximately one in seven (12.8%) of sampled ... responders screened positive with CI, whereas 1.2% had possible dementia. If representative of actual prevalence of CI in the general responder cohort [of 33,000], results may translate into 3,740–5,300 and 240–810 with CI and dementia respectively in that patient population."

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at