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

From 2015-2020, 75% of the fire fighters added to the IAFF Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial 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

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.


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.


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 (UPDATED)
    This presentation 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:
  • Podcast: Research Drives Culture Change (NEW)

Culture Change

Factsheets


Survivor Stories


Fire Fighter Cancer Awareness Month Podcasts: 2022


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.


Fire Fighter Cancer Awareness Month Podcasts: 2021

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 (UPDATED)

Module 2: Scientific Research (UPDATED)

Module 3: Occupational Cancer Prevention (UPDATED)

Module 4: Survivorship (UPDATED)

Module 5: The Need for Culture Change (UPDATED)

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.

If you or your local would like to be featured in future IAFF/FCSN Cancer Awareness Months, let us know how you would like to participate through the 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 and you used FCSN materials.
      • 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 Cancer Awareness Month – scope of cancer, research, prevention, leadership and survivorship and culture change.
      • Images of locals/departments getting involved in Cancer Awareness Month.

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