How the NFR Works

Logo for the National Firefighter Registry, featuring a firefighter helmet and cancer awareness ribbon

There have been no comprehensive, national data sources in the United States for studying the relationship between firefighting and cancer among all firefighters —until now.

The NFR will help researchers to better understand and reduce cancer in firefighters by matching the information provided by participating NFR firefighters with cancer diagnosis information from state cancer registries. This matching process will allow NIOSH to study the relationship between firefighting and cancer outcomes over time.

How the NFR will help protect firefighters from cancer
Firefighters sign up for the NFR
Firefighters provide their information through NFR’s secure website and questionnaire. This includes name, date of birth, and information about work, exposures, health, and lifestyle. NIOSH researchers then create and store the firefighter’s profile in the NFR database.
NIOSH researchers match firefighter profiles with potential information in state cancer registries over time
When anyone in the U.S is diagnosed with cancer, their health care providers document information about their diagnosis in their health record and report this diagnosis to state cancer registries. However, little information about cancer patients’ work history is collected in these state cancer registries.

When firefighters sign up for the NFR, NIOSH researchers can match an individual’s NFR profile and work history information with any cancer diagnosis information in state cancer registries.  This makes it possible to study the relationship between firefighting and cancer over time, even if cancer diagnoses occur in the future. Any cancer diagnosis information that is linked to an NFR participant is protected by the same safeguards as the other NFR data, including by an Assurance of Confidentiality.

NIOSH captures work history details
When firefighters enroll, they will have an opportunity to provide details about their work as a firefighter. NIOSH will also seek to obtain work history records from fire departments. This information can be used to better understand firefighters’ exposures and how they may be related to cancer.
Stronger evidence can help inform new health and safety measures to protect firefighters from cancer
Combining information from firefighters across the U.S. will help researchers better understand cancer and its risk factors in the fire service, which could ultimately help reduce cancer among firefighters for generations to come.
Page last reviewed: September 1, 2022