Firefighters' Cancers Studied by NIOSH, USFA

Whether cancer risk rises because of their exposures to smoke, soot, and other contaminants in the line of duty is the point of the study.

NIOSH and the U.S Fire Administration announced a joint study to examine whether firefighters face an increased risk of cancer because of their exposures to smoke, soot, and other contaminants in the line of duty. The multi-year study will include more than 18,000 current and retired career firefighters, a higher number than previously published firefighter studies included, and this one will analyze the incidence of certain cancers that have higher survival rates than others, such as testicular and prostate cancer, and deaths from causes other than cancer.

"NIOSH has worked extensively with partners in the fire service to address occupational safety and health risks for firefighters," NIOSH Director Dr. John Howard said. “We appreciate the funding and support from the U.S. Fire Administration as we engage the scientifically complex question of firefighting and cancer risk.”

"There is a need to have a comprehensive study of the incidence of cancer in the fire service involving objective medical and epidemiological oversight. We have lost too many firefighters from this disease," said USFA Administrator Kelvin J. Cochran.

Researchers will select the study population using health records of suburban and large urban fire departments, according to NIOSH, and will attempt to determine whether more cancers than expected occurred among the cohort and whether cancers are associated with exposures to the contaminants to which the firefighters may have been exposed.

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