Cancer Prevention Tips All Firefighters Should Know

By Olivia Schwartz

We already know the about the risk of cancer that firefighters face, and there are two ways we can reduce our exposure; avoid it, or remove it. These 10 tips can help all firefighters take precautionary steps to better their health before, during and after the call.


  1. Start the conversation.
    • Tell your primary care doctor how many years you have been a career or volunteer firefighter.
      • Mary Reid, the Director of Cancer Screening and Survivor-ship at Roswell Park Cancer Institute shares, “That clues your provider that if you have a cough and breathing difficulties, it might not be due to a lung infection – you could be at risk for lung cancer.”
    • Talk to your chief and fellow firefighters about the issue of cancer in the fire service. What do they know? What don’t they know? These conversations allow you to learn from one another, resulting in a safer team and department.
  1. Research cancer in the fire service & share the info with your peers.
  2. Be healthy.
    • Exercise and eat right.
      • Regular physical activity and proper diet can prevent or help manage a wide range of health problems including: diabetes, depression, and certain types of cancer. In addition, it improves muscle strength and boosts endurance, giving you more energy.2
    • Schedule an annual physical examination with your doctor.
      • The exam should include: a respiratory test to detect changes in your lung function and blood tests to detect any early-stage blood cancers like leukemia or changes in kidney function.
    • Pay attention to changes in your body.
      • Don’t disregard warning signs which may include: changes in how you breathe, a change in your urinary habits (especially blood in your urine), and any pain that doesn’t go away. 3
  1. Train Safely
    • It is critical for trainees to train with safe equipment. According to the study, Firefighters’ Multiple Exposure Assessment in Practice, by training with a modern simulator vs. a conventional simulator you are reducing possible exposure by 7-fold.4
    • Use an effective, realistic training too, while reducing unnecessary risks commonly found in traditional training methods with the ATTACK Digital Fire Training System.
      • This new technology enables firefighters to train in countless locations and situations in a safe environment to ensure your trainees are prepared to handle any real fire situation.5


  1. Wear PPE to avoid direct dermal contact.
    • The Department of Homeland Security, North Carolina State University and LION have been working on ways to reduce the potential for chronic dermal exposures to toxic substances on the fireground without affecting comfort of the turnout gear. Check out LION’s booth at FDIC #1322 to see the results!6
  2. Wear SCBA through all stages of the fire, including overhaul.7


  1. At the Fire Scene.
    • Remove as much of the bulk contamination as possible while still at the fire scene by performing gross decon.
    • Wipe soot from your head, neck, jaw, throat, underarms, and hands using wet wipes or soap immediately after the fire. 6
    • You can reference the video Heathy in Healthy Out on the Not in Our House resource page.
  2. At the Firehouse.
    • Change your clothes.
    • Ensure all gear is properly cleaned, repaired and maintained according to NFPA’s 1851 standards.
      • Use a verified ISP such as TotalCare® to clean your gear after EVERY fire. TotalCare uses Ozone cleaning technology that disinfects your gear by 99.99%.8