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New Study Examines Relationship between Firefighters and Cancers in California

May 7, 2015
NIOSH Update:
Two firefighters putting out a fire

Photo Credit: IAFF

Contact: Nura Sadeghpour (202) 245-0673

A new study from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) examined firefighters in the statewide California Cancer Registry and found that firefighters had increased risks for several major cancers. Black and Hispanic firefighters were found to have increased risks for more types of cancer than white firefighters. For the purposes of the study, only adult male subjects were included.

Firefighting is considered one of the most hazardous occupations, and involves regular exposure to known carcinogens. In this study, which used data from 1988-2007, firefighters were found to have increased risks for several cancers, including melanoma, acute myeloid leukemia, multiple myeloma, and cancers of the esophagus, prostate, brain, and kidney. Black and Hispanic firefighters, unlike white firefighters, were also found to have increased risks for non-Hodgkin lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, chronic myeloid leukemia and cancers of the tongue, testis, and bladder.

“California has the largest statewide cancer registry in the country,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. “This focused study generates novel findings for firefighters of various race and ethnicities and strengthens the body of evidence to support the association between firefighting and several specific cancers.”

This study, now available online by the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, included more firefighters with cancer than any previous study.  This allowed authors to assess the association between firefighters and the development of 32 different cancers in all firefighters combined, and firefighters of various races and ethnicities. Of the 32 cancers assessed, the risks of 14 cancers were significantly elevated in one or more firefighter groups. Black and Hispanic firefighters had significantly increased risk for more cancers than white firefighters which speaks to the need for further investigation of cancer risks among various race and ethnicities within this profession.

For access to a copy of the study please visit: For more information on the health and safety of firefighters, please visit:

NIOSH is the federal agency that conducts research and makes recommendations for preventing work-related injuries, illnesses and deaths. More information can be found at