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Report: Firefighters at increased risk of asbestos-related cancer

If you or a loved one is a firefighter, there is a very real threat that asbestos-related illnesses are a serious concern. Numerous studies have been conducted to measure the impact that asbestos exposure has on firefighters and their families, and a recent survey reportedly confirms that asbestos is contributing to a higher rate of cancer in this population.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health conducted the survey which traced cancer diagnoses for 30,000 firefighters in three major metropolitan areas across the United States. The findings suggest that exposure to asbestos contributed to higher rates of certain types of cancer including mesothelioma, which is a cancer caused by asbestos.

Firefighters suffer higher rates of respiratory, digestive and urinary cancers than other groups. The study went on to specify that they were also being diagnosed with mesothelioma at a much higher rate as well. Mesothelioma victims commonly develop the disease after being exposed to significant levels of asbestos, which can be breathed in and do significant damage to a person's lung and chest.

It may not be surprising to learn that firefighters have been and continue to be exposed to airborne asbestos on the job. Asbestos was commonly used in industrial materials and building products for decades. Undisturbed, the asbestos may not be harmful. However, once it is released into the air through fire, demolition or other means, it can easily enter a person's body. 

Asbestos can also exacerbate other health conditions attributed to other causes. For instance, people who smoke are reportedly at a much higher risk of developing cancer if they have also been exposed to asbestos.

The findings of this recent report may be significant in that they may raise awareness among firefighters. Getting tested for asbestos-related illnesses and seeking an early diagnosis could help a victim get effective treatment before it is too late. 

Source: Risk & Insurance, "Asbestos taking a toll on firefighters, study suggests," Nancy Grover, Dec. 9, 2013

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