Fire fighter occupational cancer is the leading cause of line-of-duty deaths in the fire service. In 2019, more than 75% of the names of fire fighters added to the IAFF Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial Wall of Honor in Colorado Springs, Colorado, were of members who died from occupational cancer.

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.

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.

#FFCancerMonth #FightFFCancer

January Is Fire Fighter Cancer Awareness Month!

The content on this website is designed to help IAFF leaders, members and their fire departments become more educated and aware about why cancer cases are on the rise in the fire service and provides best practices on how to limit day-to-day exposures to carcinogens.

Each week focuses on a specific theme; each theme builds on the previous week’s theme. By the end of the month, members, locals and fire departments will have the knowledge and resources to understand how fire fighters are exposed to carcinogens, what happens when they are exposed, how to prevent exposures, make culture changes in their department and assist those who are diagnosed with cancer.

Resources for each week include factsheets, relevant research and social graphics. These specific areas will help you to navigate the content and focus on topics of interest.

All resources are available to review at your convenience, but we encourage using the content from each week to hold a weekly safety stand down in your department. In addition to weekly content, training briefs are provided and should be used as discussion tools to educate fire fighters on reducing the risk of occupational cancer.

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

#FFCancerMonth #FightFFCancer


To further solidify your ongoing commitment to the prevention of fire fighter occupational cancer, we invite you to sign the online pledge and encourage you to use the Reason for Signing section to honor those we have lost to – or are currently fighting – occupational cancer.

Week 1: The Scope of the Cancer Problem in the Fire Service


The first week of the Fire Fighter Cancer Awareness Month addresses why cancer is the number-one line-of-duty death in the fire service. Additionally, the content defines cancer, explains the scope of occupational cancer in the fire service and identifies carcinogens, occupational exposures and other chemicals found in products of combustion (e.g. smoke, etc.).

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.


Week 2: Scientific Research Related to Occupational Cancer


With an understanding of cancer in the fire service, use this week to explore scientific research that identifies the link between occupational exposures and cancer rates among fire fighters. Additionally, this week looks at research on screening for cancer and exposure routes.

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.


  • Personal Story: Boston FD’s Glenn Preston Video (10-minute runtime)
    This is the story of our brother Glenn Preston of the Boston Fire Department who was diagnosed with occupational cancer at age 39. 
  • Research Study: Cancer Risk Among Firefighters: Review and Metanalysis of 32 Studies by Dr. Grace LeMasters
    The results of this research confirm previous findings of an elevated risk for multiple myeloma among fire fighters. In addition, a probable association with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, prostate and testicular cancer was demonstrated.
  • Educational Presentation #2: Scientific Research Related to Occupational Cancer
    This is a 29
    slide PowerPoint presentation reviewing the results from four key fire fighter cancer research projects. Note: Make sure you view the presentation in “presenter mode” to capture the instructor notes for the slides. 
  • Survivor Story: Lonnie Mitteis / Grand Island, NE Local 647 (4-minute video)
  • Leadership/Survivorship Study: Impact of Organizational-Level Factors on Cancer Screening Activities in Fire Departments
    A cross-sectional study from the Sylvester Firefighter Cancer Initiative / Alberto J. Caban-Martinez
  • NFORS Tracker App: Following fire activities, exposure reporting is necessary to document exposures that can lead to occupational diseases and cancer. The National Fire Operations Reporting System (NFORS) Exposure Tracker is available as an app for fire fighters, paramedics or officers to log exposure and incident details in a private, encrypted and secure online environment. The information gathered will help researchers better understand toxic exposures on the fire scene and develop new treatments and prevention protocols for occupational diseases, including cancer. Download the NFORS Exposure Tracker App by going to the app store on your mobile device.
  • Factsheets: 
  • Social Media Infographics:

Week 3: Prevention, Education and Best Practices


Turn knowledge into action. Cancer is a big issue facing the fire service, but you can prevent or limit your exposure to carcinogens. This week addresses best practices that should be followed on the fire ground, at the station and in your personal lives. They include on-scene gross decontamination, clean cab concept and modifiable risk factors.

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


Week 4: Leadership, Survivorship and Culture Change


Fire Fighter Cancer Awareness Month is nearing the end, but the work does not stop when January is over! Week four helps guide you through how to support your fellow brothers and sisters who have been diagnosed with cancer and provide resources to assist with organizational culture change that favors cancer prevention practices and how to get support from leadership.

Week four includes two separate sections of information: one for Leadership and Survivorship, and one for Culture Change. Social media infographics for both sections can be found at the bottom.

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

To further solidify your ongoing commitment to the prevention of fire fighter occupational cancer, we invite you to sign the online pledge and encourage you to use the Reason for Signing section to honor those we have lost to – or are currently fighting – occupational cancer.

Leadership and Survivorship

  • Personal Story: “When I Retire” (4-minute video)
    Boston Fire Department recruits talk about their future. 
  • Research Paper: Cancer Incidence Among Firefighters: 45 Years of Follow-Up in Five Nordic Countries 
    The five Nordic countries that participated in this project were Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. They studied 16,422 fire fighters and found elevated cancer rates for seven types of cancers. Some of these associations have been observed previously, and it was found that exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, asbestos and shiftwork involving disruption of circadian rhythms may partly explain these results. Although this specific research project was focused on predominantly white male fire fighters, there is a need and a plan to include research for a diversified workforce. This includes and identifies a variety of risks and challenges for diverse ethnic groups and female fire fighters.  
  • Educational Presentation #4: Survivorship
    A 16-slide presentation that shares specific strategies for supporting a fire fighter who has been diagnosed with cancer. Note: Make sure you view the presentation in “presenter mode” to capture the instructor notes for the slides. 
  • Survivor Story: Kyle O’Neill / San Diego, CA Local 145 (5-minute video)
  • Leadership/Survivorship: University of Miami Survivorship Application
    This website and application requires that you to register an email address for access to the dashboard that has a comprehensive list of resources for navigating the journey of a cancer diagnosis. 
  • Factsheets:

Culture Change

The IAFF and FCSN’s first Fire Fighter Cancer Awareness Month has ended, but our work is far from over. We encourage those who were not able to commit to safety stand downs in the month of January to schedule one (or more).

To further solidify your ongoing commitment to the prevention of fire fighter occupational cancer, we invite you to sign the online pledge and encourage you to use the Reason for Signing section to honor those we have lost to – or are currently fighting – occupational cancer.

Use the I Took the Pledge Photo as your Facebook profile picture or as a post on instagram or Twitter with the link to our pledge site to encourage others to sign the pledge!

#FFCancerMonth #FightFFCancer

Factsheets


Survivor Stories


Fire Fighter Cancer Awareness Month Podcast Series


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.

Education Presentations


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

Module 1: The Scope of the Cancer Problem

Module 2: Scientific Research

Module 3: Occupational Cancer Prevention

Module 4: Survivorship

Module 5: The Need for Culture Change

Social Media Graphics


Videos


Training Briefs


Research


Free Research Studies 

  1. Daniels RD, Kubale TL, Yiin JH, Dahm MM, Hales TR, Baris D, Zahm SH, Beaumont JJ, Waters KM, Pinkerton LE. Mortality and cancer incidence in a pooled cohort of US firefighters from San Francisco, Chicago and Philadelphia (1950-2009). Occup Environ Med. 2014 Jun.
  2. Pukkala E, Martinsen JI, Weiderpass E, Kjaerheim K, Lynge E, Tryggvadottir L, Sparén P, Demers PA. Cancer incidence among firefighters: 45 years of follow-up in five Nordic countries. Occup Environ Med. 2014 Jun.
  3. Jalilian H, Ziaei M, Weiderpass E, Rueegg CS, Khosravi Y, Kjaerheim K. Cancer incidence and mortality among firefighters. Int J Cancer. 2019 Nov.
  4. Fent KW, Alexander B, Roberts J, Robertson S, Toennis C, Sammons D, Bertke S, Kerber S, Smith D, Horn G. Contamination of firefighter personal protective equipment and skin and the effectiveness of decontamination procedures. J Occup Environ Hyg. 2017 Oct.
  5. Dahm MM, Bertke S, Allee S, Daniels RD. Creation of a retrospective job-exposure matrix using surrogate measures of exposure for a cohort of US career firefighters from San Francisco, Chicago and Philadelphia. Occup Environ Med. 2015 Sep.
  6. Booze TF, Reinhardt TE, Quiring SJ, Ottmar RD. A screening-level assessment of the health risks of chronic smoke exposure for wildland firefighters. J Occup Environ Hyg. 2004 May.

 Recommended Studies (Pay for) 

  1. LeMasters GK, Genaidy AM, Succop P, Deddens J, Sobeih T, Barriera-Viruet H, Dunning K, Lockey J. Cancer risk among firefighters: a review and meta-analysis of 32 studies. J Occup Environ Med. 2006 Nov.
  2. J Keir JLA, Akhtar US, Matschke DMJ, White PA, Kirkham TL, Chan HM, Blais JM. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) and metal contamination of air and surfaces exposed to combustion emissions during emergency fire suppression: Implications for firefighters’ exposures. Sci Total Environ. 2020 Jan
  3. Keir JLA, Akhtar US, Matschke DMJ, Kirkham TL, Chan HM, Ayotte P, White PA, Blais JM. Elevated Exposures to Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons and Other Organic Mutagens in Ottawa Firefighters Participating in Emergency, On-Shift Fire Suppression. Environ Sci Technol. 2017 Nov.

 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.