Cancer in the fire service is growing at an alarming rate. Whether you are a career or volunteer firefighter, the risks are real. A 2013 NIOSH study demonstrated that firefighters experience cancer at a rate higher than the general population. A Scandinavian study produced similar results.
Firefighters are exposed to more carcinogens than at any point in our history. The incidence of cancer has grown several-fold as the contents of structure fires have increasingly become synthetic, producing compounds and chemicals that cannot be accurately monitored-certainly not during a firefight.
From the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH):
Based on U.S. cancer rates:
● Fire fighters in our study had a greater number of cancer diagnoses and cancer-related deaths.
○ These were mostly digestive, oral, respiratory, and urinary cancers.
● There were about twice as many fire fighters with malignant mesothelioma, a rare type of
cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.
○ Exposure to asbestos while fire fighting is the most likely explanation for this.
● There were more cases of certain cancers among younger fire fighters.
○ For example, fire fighters in our study who were under 65 years of age had more bladder
and prostate cancers than expected.
Read the findings from the NIOSH study here.
Here are a few more resource and informational websites:
Check out this cancer Fact Sheet from the NFPA.
First Responder Center for Excellence Research Related to Firefighter Cancer
Centers for Disease Control and NIOSH Fire Fighter Resources.