Extinguishing cancer in firefighters

According to a recent article written in Fire Engineering, the fire service does very admirable work in supporting and caring for cancer-stricken firefighters, but it needs to do a much better job on prevention, since cancer continues to take a devastating toll on U.S. firefighters and their families.

A strong commitment from the fire service on cancer prevention is needed now to reverse these troubling trends. This can be accomplished by establishing local and national firefighter cancer awareness and prevention programs. Promotion and implementation of early screenings, healthful lifestyles, and more effective training will dramatically reduce cancer cases in firefighters.

Chronic exposure to heat, smoke, and toxins put firefighters at a very high risk for developing cancer. The by-products of combustion of ordinary household items such as cabinets, mattresses, curtains, insulation, and porch materials can be very carcinogenic. Inhalation, ingestion, and absorption of these toxic substances that make their way into the bloodstream of the firefighter are transported and stored in fat cells and organs. It is here where cell damage occurs that may lead to cancer. To gain a better understanding of this phenomenon, stand next to a firefighter three days after fighting a fire–you can still smell traces of smoke emanating from the firefighter’s body.

Firefighter cancer awareness and prevention programs will address and curtail firefighter high cancer rates through medical surveillance, fitness promotion, nutrition counseling, lifestyle modification, quality training, and research.

Click here to read the entire article including a full list of the recommended firefighter physical exam and screening tests.