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New for firefighters: A guide for talking with doctors

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Greenbelt, MD — A newly published guide is intended to help firefighters talk with their health care provider about the unique health risks they face on the job.

Developed by the National Volunteer Fire Council, the International Association of Fire Fighters, the International Association of Fire Chiefs and the First Responder Center for Excellence, the Provider’s Guide to Firefighter Medical Evaluations details the physical challenges firefighters face and how they impact health. It also features research findings on the risks of cardiovascular disease, cancers, sleep disorders, lung disease and behavioral health.

For instance, the guide lists 19 different types of cancers that firefighters are at increased risk of as a result of on-the-job exposures. They include bladder, lung, kidney and colon cancer. In addition, it lists 11 different carcinogens found in smoke.

In June, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer officially classified firefighting as a carcinogenic profession.


In a letter to firefighters accompanying the guide, the groups note that although the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force offers recommendations for the general public regarding health exams and screenings, they aren’t designed for occupational groups with increased risks.

“Every firefighter needs to take control of their own health care and ensure their providers are aware of the physical and mental health stress common for firefighters,” the letter states.

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