NIOSH Study Results Strengthen Link between Firefighting and Cancer

Published October 23, 2013

Nearly 30,000 career firefighters who were part of a NIOSH study were found to have higher rates of all cancers combined than the U.S. population as a whole, the agency reported last week. “The results strengthen the scientific evidence for a relation between firefighting and cancer,” NIOSH researchers and colleagues said in a press release. Study results showed that cancers of the respiratory, digestive, and urinary systems accounted mostly for the higher rates of cancer in the study population. Researchers also found that the firefighters had a rate of mesothelioma two times greater than the rate of the entire U.S. population, a finding likely associated with asbestos exposure while fighting fires, they said.

The study analyzed cancers and cancer deaths among 29,993 U.S. career firefighters employed since 1950 and followed through 2009. The firefighters were all from the Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Francisco fire departments. The study results were published online in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine early last week.

NIOSH researchers plan to further examine the firefighters’ employment records for information on occupational exposures in a second phase of the study, which will focus on exposures in relation to cancer incidence and mortality.

For more information, read the NIOSH update.