Occupational illnesses Workplace exposures

Firefighters face high rates of prostate, skin cancers: study


Photo: SANSA images

Melbourne, Australia – Firefighters face higher rates of prostate cancer and melanoma than the general public, according to a study from Monash University.

The study analyzed a database of 232,871 active and former firefighters in Australia to measure causes of death and cancer incidence rates. The study was commissioned by the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council and included four decades of data.

The risk of melanoma was increased for part-time and full-time firefighters but not among volunteer firefighters, researchers said. The increased risk applied to both male and female firefighters, and it existed for full-time firefighters regardless of whether they started employment before 1970, from 1970 to 1994, or past 1994.

Meanwhile, prostate cancer rates were particularly high among male, full-time firefighters with more than 20 years of experience, researchers said. An analysis provided “some evidence” that male volunteer firefighters with more than 20 years of experience also faced an increased risk.

“The two most elevated cancers, prostate and melanoma, do have early detection screening tests available, so the industry will investigate opportunities to incorporate screening for these cancers into health monitoring programs,” AFAC CEO Stuart Ellis said in a press release.