NIOSH Study Reinforces Link Between Fire Fighting and Cancer
October 17, 2013 – A new study conducted by the National
Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) on mortality and cancer
incidence in career fire fighters shows an elevated risk of several types of
cancer - and of all cancers combined - compared to the general U.S. population.
The study identified higher incidence rates of cancers of the respiratory, digestive and urinary systems, which suggest that fire fighters are more likely to develop these cancers compared to the general U.S. population. The incidence rate of mesothelioma was two times greater among fire fighters compared to the general population, indicating likely occupational exposures to asbestos, the known cause of mesothelioma.
These findings are consistent with previous, smaller studies assessing the cancer risk in fire fighters. The large study population and follow up for the NIOSH study strengthen the evidence for the relationship between fire fighting and cancer, and provides further support for the IAFF position that fire fighters are at increased risk of cancer due to occupational exposures to carcinogens. The data also supports the ongoing need for cancer presumptive legislation, which entitles fire fighters diagnosed with certain cancers to disability retirement benefits and workers compensation benefits.
This study will serve as a foundation for ongoing analyses of fire fighter cancer risks. The next phase of the study will look at employment histories to learn more about the relationship between occupational exposures and cancer risk.
Fire fighters can be exposed to carcinogens during fire suppression, overhaul activities and in the firehouse. Occupational carcinogens include diesel exhaust, benzene, formaldehyde, asbestos and various combustion byproducts found in smoke. Exposures can occur through inhalation of smoke or diesel exhaust, and skin exposure can occur through contaminated personal protective equipment and turnout gear.
To reduce your overall risk of exposure:
For more information about cancer presumptive legislation