Research/studies Cancer Fire/emergency medical services

NIOSH: Firefighters have higher risk of cancer

Washington – Firefighters are more likely to develop a variety of cancers than the general public, suggests a new study from NIOSH.

Researchers examined cancers and cancer deaths among nearly 30,000 firefighters from Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco employed since 1950 and followed through 2009, according to the study abstract. They found higher incidences of respiratory, digestive and urinary system cancers among the firefighter population compared to the general U.S. population. Additionally, the firefighters in the study had a rate of mesothelioma 2 times greater than the general population.

Although previous studies have had similar conclusions, those studies were smaller, researchers said, noting the new study helps strengthen the evidence between firefighting and cancer.

However, the study did not take into account other cancer-causing factors such as smoking or diet. A second phase of the study is planned in which researchers will look at employment records from the fire departments to learn how occupational exposures relate to cancer incidences.

The study was published online Oct. 14 in the journal Occupational Environmental Medicine.

Separately, the American Industrial Hygiene Association issued a statement Oct. 22 for Fire Protection Month urging firefighters to better protect themselves from hazardous contaminants that may be related to cancer deaths.