Study of Firefighters Finds Increased Rates of Cancer

A combined population of 30,000 firefighters from three large cities had higher
rates of several types of cancers, and of all cancers combined, than the U.S.
population as a whole, researchers from the National Institute for Occupational
Safety and Health (NIOSH) and colleagues found in a new study.

The new findings are generally consistent with the results of several previous,
smaller studies. Because the new study had a larger study population followed
for a longer period of time, the results strengthen the scientific evidence for
a relation between firefighting and cancer, the researchers said.

The researchers found that:

- Cancers of the respiratory, digestive, and urinary systems accounted mostly
for the higher rates of cancer seen in the study population. The higher rates
suggest that firefighters are more likely to develop those cancers.
- The population of firefighters in the study had a rate of mesothelioma two
times greater than the rate in the U.S. population as a whole. This was the
first study ever to identify an excess of mesothelioma in U.S. firefighters.
The researchers said it was likely that the findings were associated with
exposure to asbestos, a known cause of mesothelioma.

The study analyzed cancers and cancer deaths through 2009 among 29,993
firefighters from the Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Francisco fire departments
who were employed since 1950. The study was led by NIOSH in collaboration with
the National Cancer Institute and the Department of Public Health Sciences in
the University of California at Davis. The study was supported in part by
funding from the U.S. Fire Administration.

Firefighters can be exposed to contaminants from fires that are known or
suspected to cause cancer. These contaminants include combustion by-products
such as benzene and formaldehyde, and materials in debris such as asbestos from
older structures.

More information: - Source: Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety