Firefighters higher risk for some cancers

November 10, 2006

Firefighters are more likely to develop certain types of cancer than workers in other fields, University of Cincinnati researchers said.

The findings suggest that protective equipment firefighters used didn't protect them as well as first thought, the environmental health research team said in a news release.

The Ohio researchers said they found firefighters were twice as likely to develop testicular cancer and reported significantly higher rates of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and prostate cancer than non-firefighters. The study also confirmed earlier findings that firefighters were at greater risk for multiple myeloma, cancer affecting bone marrow.

The team analyzed information on 110,000 firefighters from 32 previously published scientific studies to determine their profession's health effects and cancer risks, the university said.

Firefighters are exposed to compounds classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as carcinogens, including benzene, diesel engine exhaust, chloroform, soot, styrene and formaldehyde. These substances can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin, researchers said.

"Firefighters work in an inherently dangerous occupation," said Grace LeMasters, epidemiology professor and one of the study's researchers. "As public servants they need -- and deserve -- additional protective measures that will ensure they aren't at an increased cancer risk."

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

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