American Cancer Society and IAFF Collaborate to Fight Occupational Cancer in the Fire Service  

December 3 • 2021

Photo by Juliane Leigh Forsyth

The American Cancer Society (ACS) and the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) on December 2 announced a historic, long-term collaboration to help fire fighters and emergency medical services (EMS) personnel with detection, treatment and prevention of cancer.

The alliance, announced at Engine 55 in Lower Manhattan, will allow the IAFF and ACS to address occupational cancer and share research to ensure that the most current information reaches fire fighters and emergency medical personnel. The IAFF and ACS will collaborate on a variety of projects and research that advance the missions of both organizations.

“There’s no mistaking why we picked New York City to announce this partnership. We lost 343 brave fire fighters on 9/11. Unfortunately we have lost hundreds since to the toxins they were exposed to on 9/11 and hundreds more are battling through the curse of cancer,” said IAFF General President Edward Kelly. “This collaboration between the IAFF and the American Cancer Society is a pivot point in the fight against cancer.”

Occupational cancer has surpassed cardiac events to become the leading cause of death for fire fighters and EMS personnel. Numerous studies have shown that cancer rates are significantly higher for fire fighters than the general population and that fire fighters in the United States and Canada are developing job-related cancers at a rate higher than ever.

“The concept that the fire itself is actually not the largest threat to the fire fighter but rather the exposure to toxins during their heroic deeds is something we need urgently to do something about. This partnership will allow us to turn our attention to understanding why exposures to toxins increase the risk to specific cancers to fire fighters and emergency medical personnel,” said Dr. Karen Knudsen, Chief Executive Officer of the American Cancer Society.

John Channell, a retired FDNY fire fighter diagnosed with non-Hodgkin Lymphoma linked to his work on 9/11 and the recovery efforts at Ground Zero, said: “I could not have survived this battle without the support of my friends and family and the FDNY. With this agreement a lot of other fire fighters will have added support in their battles against cancer. Nobody should fight this alone.”

For more information, visit