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Increased risk of cancer: Hidden danger lurking for firefighters

On Behalf of | Feb 1, 2018 | Workers' Compensation |

American people count on firefighters to combat fires of all sorts. From wildfires that plague California to house fires, there is no shortage of work for these brave men and women. There is a danger lurking due to the working conditions for the people who choose to help others in this manner.

Firefighters have an increased risk of cancer that can range from highly treatable non-melanoma skin cancer to highly aggressive cancers like those of the urinary tract and respiratory system. This risk comes from several factors, so firefighters must be very careful as they battle blazes because they could soon be battling to live.

A common misconception

There is a misconception that firefighters are 68 percent more likely to get cancer than the general population. The fact is that the chance of firefighters being diagnosed with cancer varies according to the type of cancer you are discussing. Overall, this profession comes with a 9 percent increase in cancer diagnosis and a 14 percent increase in death from cancer. Even this information is a bit misleading.

Take esophageal cancer. Firefighters have a 39 percent increase in dying from this type of cancer and a 62 percent higher chance of being diagnosed. They face a 100 percent, or double, chance of being diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma and a 129 percent increase in death from this type of rare cancer.

Thoughts about the increased risk

There are many factors that are thought to increase the cancer risk for these professionals. One is that soot is a known carcinogen. While it is true that the gear firefighters wear helps to protect them, there are often small openings in the waistband, wrist and neck of the gear. Soot can get into these and ultimately lead to issues.

A study was done that showed firefighters in Florida face a big increase in cancer risk. It is believed that this is due to the sunny conditions. A theory notes that there is a chance the ultraviolet light plays a part how carcinogens impact these individuals. Some people note that contemporary firefighters might also face similar risks. Those who fight wildfires fall under this category.

One thing is certain for people who fight fires for a living — they need to do everything they can to avoid exposure to carcinogens. This includes using the personal protective devices provided. If there are any issues with the safety gear, take note and try to find a suitable replacement. There is a chance that you will need to take legal action if you are diagnosed with cancer that is attributed to your career.