Firefighter Cancer Rates: The Facts from NIOSH Research
Posted on May 10, 2017 by Robert D. Daniels, PhD, CHP
In 2010, researchers from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), launched a multi-year study to examine whether firefighters have a higher risk of cancer and other causes of death due to job exposures. The study was a joint effort led by researchers at NIOSH in collaboration with researchers at the National Cancer Institute and the University of California at Davis Department of Public Health Sciences, and supported by the U.S Fire Administration. This study was completed in late 2015.
The study included nearly 30,000 career firefighters from Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Francisco who were employed at any time between 1950 and 2009. NIOSH researchers found that, when compared to the number of cancers expected using U.S. population rates, the firefighters in this study had a modest increase in cancer diagnoses (9% increase) and cancer-related deaths (14% increase). More information about the study can be found at the links below.
Understanding the increased risks faced by firefighters can help target prevention efforts. However, recent media reports have confused the issue by over-stating the cancer risk for firefighters. We hope that providing the data in this blog and the references below will help prevent further misrepresentation of our data.
Additional information on the study can be found at the NIOSH Cancer Study Topics Page and in a NIOSH Science Blog. Links to the study publications are provided below.
Mortality and cancer incidence in a pooled cohort of US firefighters from San Francisco, Chicago and Philadelphia (1950− 2009)
Exposure–response relationships for select cancer and non-cancer health outcomes in a cohort of US firefighters from San Francisco, Chicago and Philadelphia (1950–2009)
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
Robert D. Daniels, PhD, CHP
Dr. Daniels is a Lead Epidemiologist in the NIOSH Education and Information Division.