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Firefighters face increased risk for certain cancers

CINCINNATI -- University of Cincinnati (UC) environmental health researchers have determined that firefighters are significantly more likely to develop four different types of cancer than workers in other fields.

Their findings suggest that the protective equipment firefighters have used in the past didn't do a good job in protecting them against cancer-causing agents they encounter in their profession, the researchers say.

The researchers found, for example, that firefighters are twice as likely to develop testicular cancer and have significantly higher rates of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and prostate cancer than non-firefighters. The researchers also confirmed previous findings that firefighters are at greater risk for multiple myeloma.

Grace LeMasters, PhD, Ash Genaidy, PhD, and James Lockey, MD, report these findings in the November edition of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. The UC-led study is the largest comprehensive study to date investigating cancer risk associated with working as a firefighter.

"We believe there's a direct correlation between the chemical exposures firefighters experience on the job and their increased risk for cancer," says LeMasters, professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at UC.

Firefighters are exposed to many compounds designated as carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)--including benzene, diesel engine exhaust, chloroform, soot, styrene and formaldehyde, LeMasters explains. These substances can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin and occur both at the scene of a fire and in the firehouse, where idling diesel fire trucks produce diesel exhaust.

"Firefighters work in an inherently dangerous occupation on a daily basis," LeMasters adds. "As public servants, they need--and deserve--additional protective measures that will ensure they aren't at an increased cancer risk."

The UC-led team analyzed information
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Contact: Amanda Harper
amanda.harper@uc.edu
513-604-3308
University of Cincinnati
10-Nov-2006


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