April 27, 2023

NIOSH Launches Registry to Understand, Reduce Cancer in the Fire Service

NIOSH announced in April the launch of the National Firefighter Registry for Cancer, an effort to understand and reduce cancer among firefighters in the United States. The agency describes the NFR as “the largest effort undertaken by the nation to support and advance understanding of cancer in the fire service.” As numerous studies have found that exposures on the fireground may increase firefighters’ risk of certain types of cancer, the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act of 2018 directed NIOSH to develop a registry to help improve understanding of the link between firefighting and cancer. The resulting NFR is intended to capture details about participants’ work and match that data with information from state cancer registries. NIOSH worked with experts in fire and emergency services as well as experts from the public health, epidemiology, and medical fields to plan and launch the registry.

The NFR is open to all U.S. firefighters, regardless of whether they have a previous cancer diagnosis, and participation is voluntary. NIOSH encourages all members of the fire service to participate in the NFR, including active, former, and retired firefighters; career, paid-on-call, and volunteer firefighters; structural, wildland, industrial, and military firefighters; instructors; and fire investigators. The agency also stresses the importance of recruiting many types of firefighters from the nation’s diverse fire service to join the NFR. According to NIOSH Director John Howard, MD, “the more firefighters who join the NFR, the more researchers can learn about cancer arising from firefighting and how to prevent it.”

NFR Team Lead Kenny Fent, PhD, CIH, added that he and his colleagues are “excited to raise awareness about this groundbreaking effort to better understand and reduce cancer among all types of firefighters, including those who have traditionally been underrepresented in research, such as women, volunteers, and firefighters from racial and ethnic minority groups.” Fent is one of the authors of an article about the NFR that will be published in the June/July 2023 issue of The Synergist.

To learn more about the NFR, visit the registry webpage.