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According to the results of a study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, firefighters have an increased risk of developing certain types of cancer.

Workers in certain occupations may face an increased risk of cancer due to exposures that they encounter on the job. Exposure to radiation, potentially hazardous chemicals, or second-hand smoke may all carry risk.

Firefighters are exposed to many potentially hazardous substances, including diesel engine exhaust, soot, benzene, chloroform, styrene, and formaldehyde. These substances may be inhaled or absorbed through the skin.

To assess the risk of cancer among firefighters, researchers at the University of Cincinnati evaluated information from 32 previously published studies. The studies included information about more than 100,000 firefighters.

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Four types of cancer were more common among firefighters than among other workers in other fields:

  • Firefighters were twice as likely to develop testicular cancer, roughly 50% more likely to develop multiple myeloma or non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and 28% more likely to develop prostate cancer.

The study suggests that ongoing attention to protective gear for firefighters must be a priority, and that firefighters should wash thoroughly after fighting a fire.

Reference: LeMasters GK, Genaidy AM, Succop P et al. Cancer Risk among Firefighters: A Review and Meta-analysis of 32 Studies. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 2006;48:1189-1202.

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