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USFA and NIOSH Begin Study on Cancer in Firefighters

Cape May Herald via YellowBrix

April 22, 2010

EMMITSBURG, MD— USFA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) are partnering on a study to examine the potential for increased risk of cancer among firefighters due to exposures from smoke, soot, and other contaminants in the line of duty. This will be a formal epidemiological study with medical oversight.

The primary objective of the project is to clarify the relationship between firefighter occupational exposures and cancer.

The project will improve upon previously published firefighter studies by significantly increasing the study cohort size and person-years at risk, and using a more detailed exposure surrogate metric in both the mortality and incidence analyses than are found in most previous studies. These improvements will increase the precision of disease risk estimates.

Additional objectives of the study are to establish a pooled cohort of career firefighters from both suburban and large city fire departments to study the relationship between firefighter occupational exposures and cancer, conduct a retrospective mortality study among the cohort of firefighters, determine the incidence of cancer among the firefighter cohort members, and examine the relationship between occupational exposures and cause-specific mortality and cancer incidence among firefighters.

This NIOSH study supported by USFA is intended to fill gaps in current knowledge and inform ongoing efforts to further characterize the cancer risk associated with these exposures.

Researchers will establish the population or cohort of 18,000 career firefighters from health records of both suburban and large city fire departments. By analyzing deaths and cancer cases among those firefighters, NIOSH will attempt to determine 1) whether more cancers than expected occurred among the cohort, and 2) whether cancers are associated with exposures to the contaminants to which the firefighters may have been exposed.

NIOSH is the federal agency that conducts research and makes recommendations for preventing work-related injury, illness, and death. NIOSH’s research includes a national program to investigate fatal traumatic injuries and other causes of line-of-duty deaths among firefighters.

More information about NIOSH can be found at Additional information about NIOSH’s program to investigate firefighter deaths in the line of duty, and to make recommendations for preventing such deaths, can be found at