CDC Seeks Input on Firefighter Registry

New data tool sheds light on workplace cancer risks for more than a million firefighters

Press Release

For Immediate Release: Thursday, March 28, 2019
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CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is asking for input on how to encourage more than 1.1 million U.S. firefighters’ participation in a voluntary registry.

The National Firefighter Registry will help researchers better understand why firefighters are at increased risk of certain types of cancer – including digestive, lung, throat, and urinary cancers.

“Firefighters put their lives on the line to ensure our safety in emergencies, but their jobs may also put them at risk for long-term health effects such as cancer,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D.

Researchers also will use the registry to raise awareness about better ways to protect firefighters from known cancer risks, including advancements in the design and care of personal protective equipment and practices that can lower firefighters’ exposure to hazardous substances.

“We look forward to receiving this formal input from our partners in the fire service on how we can make sure they are engaged in this process as we move forward. Their contributions will be important to the overall success of this registry,” said Kenny Fent, Ph.D., head of the National Firefighter Registry Program.

The NIOSH announcement appears in the Federal Registerexternal icon; interested stakeholders will have 60 days to offer comments. NIOSH anticipates that enrollment will likely begin in 2020 when the design and operation of the registry are established. A 2018 lawexternal icon requires NIOSH to develop and maintain a voluntary registry of firefighters – including volunteer, retired, paid-on-call, and career firefighters – to monitor firefighters’ cancer rates and to make the results public.

Voluntary registry will rely upon firefighter input

The National Firefighter Registry will improve upon past NIOSH researchpdf icon by collecting information on a large sample of firefighters representative of the roughly 1.1 million career and volunteer firefighters working in the U.S., including minorities and women who were not well represented in past research.

In 2010, NIOSH researchers began a multi-year study that examined whether firefighters have a higher risk of cancer and other causes of death due to on-the-job exposures. With more than 30,000 career firefighters serving between 1950 and 2010, it was the largest study of U.S firefighters ever undertaken.

Researchers looked not only at deaths from cancer, but also at the diagnosis of certain kinds of cancer, such as testicular and prostate cancers, which have higher survival rates. NIOSH also examined other causes of death to better understand the risk for various cancers and illnesses among firefighters compared to the general public. The study results led to a call for the creation of a national registry with a focus on understudied groups of firefighters.

NIOSH is the federal institute that conducts research and makes recommendations for preventing work-related injuries, illnesses and deaths. For more information about NIOSH, visit www.cdc.gov/niosh/.

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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICESexternal icon

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Page last reviewed: March 28, 2019