Fire fighter occupational cancer is the leading cause of line-of-duty death in the fire service.

In 2023, 72% of IAFF member line-of-duty deaths were due to occupational cancer. In Canada, where most provinces and territories have robust presumptive laws, close to 94% of line-of-duty deaths among professional fire fighters are the result of occupational cancers.

In partnership with the Firefighter Cancer Support Network (FCSN), the IAFF has designated January as Fire Fighter Cancer Awareness Month to provide fire fighters the necessary tools and guidance to develop life-saving protocols for cancer prevention and to support those with a cancer diagnosis within their departments.

Canada recognized Fire Fighter Cancer Awareness Month in 2023 with the adoption of MP Sherry Romanado’s Bill C-224.

Bringing increased public awareness to occupational cancer in the fire service will help generate greater legislative support for states and provinces to establish presumptive disabilities for all cancers affecting fire fighters.

January is Fire Fighter Cancer Awareness Month

Make sure to follow @iaffofficial on Facebook, X, Instagram, and LinkedIn throughout the month for more resources.

The content on this webpage is designed to educate IAFF leaders, members, and fire departments on the science behind fire fighter cancer rates and the development of cancer and to provide best practices on how to minimize daily exposures to carcinogens, mitigate risk factors, and fortify defenses against occupational cancer. Also included are insights from cancer survivors within the fire service, shedding light on their experiences and perspectives post-diagnosis.

All resources are available to review at your convenience, but we encourage you to hold a weekly safety stand down in your department.

Each week delves into a designated theme (refer to the tabs on the left). The current year’s weekly topics encompass best practices for reducing cancer risk during fireground activities, within the station, and in personal life. These include immediate calls to action, emphasizing the prevention or reduction of exposure to carcinogens and the promotion of a healthy lifestyle.

While exposure to carcinogens as a fire fighter may seem inevitable and insurmountable, every effort – regardless of its scale – is necessary to reduce your exposure to carcinogens and change/improve aspects of your life within your control. These efforts make a difference in the overall accumulation of carcinogenic exposure and reduce your risk of developing occupational cancer.

Fire Fighter Cancer Awareness Month takes place in January, but these resources can be shared throughout the year. We encourage you to check back frequently for more information about specific topics.

Week 1: Best Practices to Reduce Cancer at the Fire Station


This week we will be highlighting how to reduce the risk of exposure to carcinogens through best practices around station design of hot, warm/transition, and cold zones to reduce the migration of carcinogens from contaminated areas like the apparatus bay to clean zones such as kitchens and sleeping quarters. If station design is not an option, we also highlight ways to reduce exposure through personal efforts and modifiable risk factors.

To get the most from this week, we recommend taking one day this week to conduct a Safety Stand Down. All resources are also available to review at your convenience.


Resources:

Factsheets:

Call to Action: What Can You Do?

PowerPoint: Fire Station Best Practices

Fire Fighter Survivor Stories: 

Webpage: PFAS and Turnout Gear

Week 2: Best Practices to Reduce Cancer on the Fireground


This week we will focus on cancer reduction when actively responding to a fire. Materials throughout the week will highlight best practices around SCBA use, preliminary exposure reduction processes, bagging gear, and designating zones on the fireground to reduce exposures as you transition from active firefighting to rehab.


Resources:

Factsheets:

Call to Action: What can you do?

PowerPoint: Fireground Best Practices

Fire Fighter Survivor Story:

Locals/Departments in Action:

Week 3: Best Practices to Reduce Cancer Off-Duty/Personal Life


The past few weeks we’ve covered efforts to reduce cancer both at the fire station and on the fire ground. This week, we will capture risk factors while you are off shift. The materials this week will cover a variety of personal modifiable risk factors you can address both on and off the job to reduce your cancer risk. Some of these factors include tobacco and alcohol use, fitness, nutrition, sleep hygiene, and stress.


Resources:

Factsheets:

Call to Action: What can you do?

PowerPoint: Modifiable Risk Factors

Fire Fighter Survivor Story: 

Take Action Videos:

Take Action Resources:

Week 4: Survivorship & Cancer Prevention in Action


This week, we want to highlight some of the cancer success stories from brothers and sisters around the IAFF. These stories include personal survival stories, departments’ success stories, and efforts you can get involved with to stay informed with the best practices to reduce your risk of developing occupationally linked cancer.


Resources:

Factsheet: Survivorship and Supporting Those Diagnosed

PowerPoint: Survivorship

Fire Fighter Survivor Stories:

Support & Prevention in Action:

Factsheets (NEW for 2024)


Updated for 2024


Factsheets: 2021-2023


Survivor Stories (NEW for 2024)


Survivor Stories (2021-2023)


Research 


Factsheets: Fire Fighter Cancer Risk by Type 

Below are factsheets on the different cancer types that fire fighters have an elevated risk for.

Produced by the Center for Fire, Rescue and EMS Health Research, the Firefighter Cancer Support Network, and DectecTogether. 

  1. Firefighters and Cervical Cancer
  2. Firefighters and Colorectal Cancer
  3. Firefighters and Esophageal Cancer
  4. Firefighters and Kidney Cancer

Recommended Research Studies (Free):

  1. Zahm, S., Bonde, J. P., Chiu, W. A., Hoppin, J., Kanno, J., Abdallah, M., Blystone, C. R., Calkins, M. M., Dong, G.-H., Dorman, D. C., Fry, R., Guo, H., Haug, L. S., Hofmann, J. N., Iwasaki, M., Machala, M., Mancini, F. R., Maria-Engler, S. S., Møller, P., … Schubauer-Berigan, M. K. (2023). Carcinogenicity of perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid. The Lancet Oncology, 0(0). https://doi.org/10.1016/S1470-2045(23)00622-8
  2. Ledda, C., Bracci, M., Spadafora, A., Motta, G., Smecca, G., Catelan, D., & Rapisarda, V. (2023). Unmasking the Hidden Danger: A Decade-Long Systematic Review of Case-Control Studies on Single Occupational Risks and Prostate Cancer. Life (Basel, Switzerland), 13(9). https://doi.org/10.3390/life13091820
  3. Navarro, K. M., Fent, K., Mayer, A. C., Brueck, S. E., Toennis, C., Law, B., Meadows, J., Sammons, D., & Brown, S. (2023). Characterization of inhalation exposures at a wildfire incident during the Wildland Firefighter Exposure and Health Effects (WFFEHE) Study. Annals of Work Exposures and Health, wxad046. https://doi.org/10.1093/annweh/wxad046
  4. Girase, A., Thompson, D., & Ormond, R. B. (2023). Bench-Scale and Full-Scale Level Evaluation of the Effect of Parameters on Cleaning Efficacy of the Firefighters’ PPE. Textiles (Basel, Switzerland), 3(2), 201–218. https://doi.org/10.3390/textiles3020014
  5. Girase, A., Shinde, A., & Ormond, R. B. (2023). Qualitative Assessment of Off-Gassing of Compounds from Field-Contaminated Firefighter Jackets with Varied Air Exposure Time Intervals Using Headspace  GC-MS. Textiles (Basel, Switzerland), 3(2), 246–256. https://doi.org/10.3390/textiles3020016
  6. DeBono, N. L., Daniels, R. D., Beane Freeman, L. E., Graber, J. M., Hansen, J., Teras, L. R., Driscoll, T., Kjaerheim, K., Demers, P. A., Glass, D. C., Kriebel, D., Kirkham, T. L., Wedekind, R., Filho, A. M., Stayner, L., & Schubauer-Berigan, M. K. (2023). Firefighting and Cancer: A Meta-analysis of Cohort Studies in the Context of Cancer Hazard Identification. Safety and Health at Work, 14(2), 141–152. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.shaw.2023.02.003
  7. Jung, A. M., Beitel, S. C., Gutenkunst, S. L., Billheimer, D., Jahnke, S. A., Littau, S. R., White, M., Hoppe-Jones, C., Cherrington, N., & Burgess, J. L. (2023). Excretion of polybrominated diphenyl ethers and AhR activation in breastmilk among firefighters. Toxicological Sciences: An Official Journal of the Society of Toxicology, kfad017. https://doi.org/10.1093/toxsci/kfad017
  8. Keir, J. L. A., Kirkham, T. L., Aranda-Rodriguez, R., White, P. A., & Blais, J. M. (2023). Effectiveness of dermal cleaning interventions for reducing firefighters’ exposures to PAHs and genotoxins. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, 20(2), 84–94. https://doi.org/10.1080/15459624.2022.2150768
  9. Wilkinson, A. F., Fent, K. W., Mayer, A. C., Chen, I.-C., Kesler, R. M., Kerber, S., Smith, D. L., & Horn, G. P. (2023). Use of Preliminary Exposure Reduction Practices or Laundering to Mitigate Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Contamination on Firefighter Personal Protective Equipment Ensembles. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 20(3), 2108. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph20032108
  10. Wolffe, T. A. M., Robinson, A., Dickens, K., Turrell, L., Clinton, A., Maritan-Thomson, D., Joshi, M., & Stec, A. A. (2023). Cancer incidence amongst UK firefighters. Scientific Reports, 12(1), 22072. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-24410-3
  11. Siegel, R. L., Miller, K. D., Wagle, N. S., & Jemal, A. (2023). Cancer statistics, 2023. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, 73(1), 17–48. https://doi.org/10.3322/caac.21763
  12. Kunz, K. R., Turcotte, K., Pawer, S., Zheng, A., Purewal, A., Wellar, A., Karmali, S., Garis, L., Thomas, L. S., & Pike, I. (2023). Cancer in female firefighters: The clinicobiological, psychological, and social perspectives. Frontiers in Public Health, 11. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpubh.2023.1126066

 Recommended Studies (Pay for) 

  1. Keir, J. L. A., Papas, W., Wawrzynczak, A., Aranda-Rodriguez, R., Blais, J. M., & White, P. A. (2023). Use of silicone wristbands to measure firefighters’ exposures to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) during live fire training. Environmental Research, 117306. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2023.117306
  2. Valek, S. A., Rousseau, M. A., Nelson, K. C., Kannler, C., & Tran, T. (2023). Melanoma risk among career firefighters: A systematic review of case-control studies. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 88(5), 1189–1192. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaad.2022.11.058
  3. Rosenfeld, P. E., Spaeth, K. R., Remy, L. L., Byers, V., Muerth, S. A., Hallman, R. C., Summers-Evans, J., & Barker, S. (2023). Perfluoroalkyl substances exposure in firefighters: Sources and implications. Environmental Research, 220, 115164. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2022.115164

Additional Resources

PowerPoints


Note: Make sure you view the presentation in “presenter mode” to capture the instructor notes for the slides. 

Week 1: Cancer Prevention at the Fire Station

Week 2: Cancer Prevention on the Fireground

Week 3: Modifiable Risk Factors

Week 4: Survivorship

The Occupational Cancer Problem in the Fire Service

Videos 


FFCAM: Gabriel Dominguez / Houston, TX Local 341

FU Cancer: United Phoenix Firefighters Local 493

National Firefighter Registry for Cancer

FSCN Mentorship

FCSN Survivorship

Rob & Ryan Lead From Behind for Colon Cancer

FFCAM Caretaker Story: Caylie Valenta, widow of Vista, CA Local 4107 member Andy Valenta

DetecTogether: Don’t Ignore Cancer Symptoms – Eddie’s Story

DetecTogether: The Hardest Call I’ve Ever Been On – PJ’s Story

DetecTogether: Be Honest With Your Doctor and Speak Up – Joanie’s Story

SAFD Quartermaster Program (PPE Decon)

AAD Cares: Dr. Kannler’s Story (Skin Cancer)

PBS Newshour: How Fire Fighters’ Life-Saving Work Puts Them at a Higher Risk of Cancer

Pasco County, FL Fire Department/IAFF Local 4420 Decon 1 Program

NBC News: PFAS in Fire Fighter Gear 

KOLD 13: IARC Reclassification of Firefighting as a Group 1 Carcinogen

Retired Goodyear Firefighter Austin Peck Shares Battle with Cancer

FCSN: Fire Fighters and Cancer

The Importance of Annual Medical Exams: Dr. Hamrock and the Boston Fire Department

DetecTogether: Check Cough

DetecTogether: Check Skin

DetecTogether: Check Exhaustion

FirefighterAid: Cancer Awareness Month

IAFF/FCSN: Fire Fighter Cancer Awareness Month

Boston Fire Department: Glenn Preston

FFCAM Caregiver Story: Widow of Miami, FL Local 587 Fire Fighter Ralf Garcia

FDNY Bureau of Training: Education and Awareness From Day One

Boston Fire Department: When I Retire …

Firefighter Cancer Initiative: University of Miami – Clean Your Gear

Cancer in the Boston Fire Department

FirefighterAid / San Diego Fire Department: CAPP Presentation Introduction & Impact Film

FirefighterAid Cancer Awareness & Prevention Program – Scott Lowe Impact Story

Coral Springs-Parkland Fire Department – Our Story

Preventing Cancer in the Boston Fire Department

Boston Fire Department: Fighting Back

Texas Commission on Fire Protection / Houston Fire Department: Cancer Prevention

Toxic Hot Seat  (Fire Fighter Scene)

Orange County Fire Authority: The Testimony

Palm Beach County Fire Rescue/Local 2928: The Game Changer

Firefighter Cancer Initiative/University of Miami: New Badge of Honor

How to Use Post-Fire Decontamination Wipes: Miami-Dade Fire Rescue

Podcasts 


Firefighters Attacking the Cancer Epidemic (FACE) Teams

Sam Eaton (Palm Beach County, FL Local 2928 [retired]) and Chris Bator (Metro-Broward, FL Local 3080) from the Florida Firefighters Safety and Health Collaborative discuss how cancer in the fire service has impacted their departments and how this led to the creation of Firefighters Attacking the Cancer Epidemic “FACE” Teams.


PFAS Concerns

Jason Burns (Fall River, MA Local 1314) and IAFF Chief Science Advisor Derek Urwin (Los Angeles County, CA Local 1014) discuss per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) – a class of toxic chemicals fire fighters are exposed to. They highlight the concerns for fire fighters and the impact on departments.


Cancer Prevention and Early Detection

Firefighter Cancer Support Network (FCSN)’s Russ Osgood and DetecTogether’s Heather Maykel discuss how fire fighters can be their own advocate and how they can detect cancer earlier by utilizing the DetecTogether program. Russ and Heather explain some of the educational components of the training and tools to advocate for additional screenings.


Cancer Resources for Fire Fighters

Firefighter Cancer Support Network (FCSN)’s Chief Operations Officer Joe Schumacher and the American Cancer Society (ACS) Senior Director of Field Corporate Strategy and Operations Kim Bruna highlight the cancer resources available for fire fighters through their partnerships with the IAFF. They highlight online resources, hotlines, and support services both organizations offer, and how those who are diagnosed with cancer or know someone who is diagnosed can access those resources.


Cancer Goes Beyond the Fire Station

Chrystal Woodcock and Captain Shawn Griffin discuss losing a husband and best friend to occupational cancer, including the impact losing a loved one has on a family and department support during a cancer diagnosis.


What Is Cancer Insurance?

The IAFF Financial Corporation COO Kurt Becker and Director of Insurance Sara McMullin discuss what the IAFF Financial Corporation is, how it benefits members and what services are available, including the new cancer supplemental insurance options.


Fire Fighter Cancer Cohort Study

Dr. Jeff Burgess and IAFF Director Derek Urwin discuss the Fire Fighter Cancer Cohort Study, diving into the purpose of the study and what they see as the next steps.


Turning a Cancer Diagnosis Into Support for Others

Dan King, a cancer survivor and FCSN mentor, joins us to discuss his diagnosis and treatment and how his experiences and lessons learned led him to become an FCSN mentor.


Research Drives Culture Change

Dr. Sara Janke and Bryan Frieders (FCSN) discuss issues female fire fighters face, behavioral health, stress and relevant research that demonstrates the need for culture changes in the fire service to reduce occupational cancer.


2022 Podcasts

Podcast 1: Cancer Goes Beyond the Fire Station

Chrystal Woodcock and Captain Shawn Griffin discuss losing a husband and best friend to occupational cancer, including the impact losing a loved one has on a family and department support during a cancer diagnosis.


Podcast 2: What Is Cancer Insurance?

The IAFF Financial Corporation COO Kurt Becker and Director of Insurance Sara McMullin discuss what the IAFF Financial Corporation is, how it benefits members and what services are available, including the new cancer supplemental insurance options.


Podcast 3: Fire Fighter Cancer Cohort Study

Dr. Jeff Burgess and IAFF Director Derek Urwin discuss the Fire Fighter Cancer Cohort Study, diving into the purpose of the study and what they see as the next steps.


Podcast 4: Turning a Cancer Diagnosis Into Support for Others

Dan King, a cancer survivor and FCSN mentor, joins us to discuss his diagnosis and treatment and how his experiences and lessons learned led him to become an FCSN mentor.


Podcast 5: Research Drives Culture Change

Dr. Sara Janke and Bryan Frieders (FCSN) discuss issues female fire fighters face, behavioral health, stress and relevant research that demonstrates the need for culture changes in the fire service to reduce occupational cancer.


2021 Podcasts

Podcast 1: The National Firefighter Registry

For the first week in the Fire Fighter Cancer Awareness Month podcast series, IAFF staff is joined by Dr. Kenny Fent and Dr. Miriam Siegel from NIOSH to discuss the National Firefighter Registry (NFR). Listen along to better understand what the NFR is, the legislative efforts behind getting the registry created, why it was created, who can join the registry and how the registry can be used to better understand occupational cancer in the fire service.


Podcast 2: The Firefighter Cancer Support Network – Survivorship and Support

IAFF staff sit down with the president of the Firefighter Cancer Support Network (FCSN), Bryan Frieders, to discuss the organization’s rise and structure, its mission to keep fire fighters safe, its alliance with the IAFF and the resources the FCSN provides in support of fire fighters who have received a cancer diagnosis. Bryan also explains efforts being taken by the FCSN to reduce cancer exposures in the fire service.


Podcast 3: Labor-Management Relations – Navigating Cancer in the Fire Service

In this episode, IAFF staff talk with Garland, TX Local 1293 President Bill Crews and Fire Chief Mark Lee about the benefits of having a positive labor/management relationship in place to strengthen cancer prevention efforts and take care of members when they are diagnosed.


Podcast 4: Cancer – Science, Research and Best Practices

IAFF staff are joined by Dr. Aisha Rivera from Johns Hopkins University and Racquel Segall from the IAFF’s Health and Safety Department to discuss the science around cancer in the fire service, research projects the IAFF is involved with, prevention best practices and how the IAFF can assist departments with cancer questions.

Training Briefs


Additional Resources


Contact


For questions regarding Fire Fighter Cancer Awareness Month, contact [email protected] for IAFF support or [email protected] to reach someone at the Firefighter Cancer Support Network.

Get Involved


If you or your local would like to be featured during IAFF/FCSN Cancer Awareness Months, let us know how you would like to participate (options below), and we will work with you to get appropriate approvals and items we need specifically:

      • Survivor Stories: In remission or in treatment for a cancer diagnosis.
      • Support Stories: If you had family member or someone from your local pass away from occupational cancer.
      • Videos that spotlight the five areas highlighted in Fire Fighter Cancer Awareness Month – scope of cancer, research, prevention, leadership and survivorship, and culture change.
      • Images of locals/departments getting involved in Fire Fighter Cancer Awareness Month.

For more information or to get involved, email [email protected].