Mesothelioma, other cancers remain a health risk for firefighters

Last summer, the World Health Organization re-classified firefighting as a cancer-causing profession. Many people already are aware of this news, especially firefighters and their families.

In July, a panel of 25global scientists determined that sufficient evidence exists that firefighters around the world are exposed to cancer-causing agents that boost the risk for mesothelioma and bladder cancer. The study also concluded there was limited evidence tying firefighters to increased forms of colon, prostate and testicular cancer as well as non-Hodgkin lymphoma and melanoma cancer.

Two times more likely to get mesothelioma

Mesothelioma – a rare cancer caused by exposure to asbestos – has always been a concern among firefighters. These civil servants understand the hazards of asbestos – a fire-resistant mineral – often found in building materials.

Inhaling asbestos fibers can lead to mesothelioma and other forms of cancer that affect the lungs and stomach lining. It usually takes decades for diagnosis, and the prognosis is typically fatal.

According to a study from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), firefighters are two times more likely to receive a diagnosis of mesothelioma than the general U.S. population.

Two years ago, the North Carolina Insurance Commissioner’s Office created a volunteer cancer registry for firefighters. Early findings disclosed that the leading types of cancer found among North Carolina firefighters were mesothelioma, prostate and colon cancer.

Other contributing chemicals

Onsite chemicals and protective gear also may contribute to cancer diagnoses for firefighters. While providing them with protection from flames, their fire-suits contain man-made chemicals PFAS – known as forever chemicals. PFAS chemicals cause a number of cancers, including those related to the kidneys and thyroid.

Firefighters deserve protection

Firefighters risk their lives in virtually any job-related situation. They protect our communities and people. They deserve protection from hazards that may lead to life-changing medical ailments.