Frequently Asked Questions About Participating in the NFR

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

In 2018, Congress passed the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act. This Act directed the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to develop a registry to better understand the link between firefighting and cancer.  The NFR is the largest effort undertaken so far to understand and reduce cancer among U.S. firefighters.

Studies show that firefighters may have a greater risk of some types of cancer due to their exposure to smoke and hazardous chemicals on the fireground. Many of these studies did not include volunteer firefighters or enough female or non-white firefighters to draw conclusions about their cancer risk. The NFR was created  to address these knowledge gaps. The NFR will collect information from a large and diverse population of firefighters, with representation from previously understudied groups. Therefore, it will be possible to study cancer risk among different groups of firefighters.

All U.S. firefighters, no matter their length of service. This includes:

  • Active, former, and retired firefighters
  • Career, paid-on-call, and volunteer firefighters
  • Structural firefighters
  • Wildland firefighters
  • Industrial firefighters
  • Military firefighters
  • Instructors
  • Fire investigators
  • Other fire service members

Participation is voluntary.

Yes. All firefighters, with or without a previous diagnosis of cancer, can join the NFR.

Having many types of firefighters join the NFR is vital to examining the relationship between firefighting and cancer. The more researchers know about cancer, the more that can be done to prevent it.

By joining the NFR, you can:

  • Help protect your brothers and sisters in the fire service from developing cancer
  • Help lessen the impact of cancer on firefighters’ families and friends
  • Pave the way for new health and safety measures to keep the next generation of firefighters safe
  • Improve understanding of cancer risk among minority, female, and volunteer firefighters, as well as groups like wildland firefighters

Every time someone is diagnosed with cancer, their healthcare provider submits information about the diagnosis to state cancer registries for public health purposes. However, little information about cancer patients’ work history is collected in these state cancer registries. So, a firefighter’s cancer diagnosis would be captured by the state cancer registry where they live, but not detailed information about their occupation (or time as a volunteer firefighter).

The NFR will help researchers address this knowledge gap. When you sign up for the NFR, you will be asked to provide your name and other identifying information (e.g., date of birth). This will allow NIOSH researchers to match the information you provided in the NFR to cancer diagnosis information from state cancer registries. This makes it possible to study the relationship between firefighting and cancer outcomes over time.

Registration will take place through a secure web portal and will take about 30 minutes. When joining the NFR, you will provide some information about yourself – name, date of birth, and some basic information about work exposures and lifestyle.

Privacy and data security are top priorities for the NFR. Firefighters join the NFR through a secure website using multi-factor authentication and firefighter data is stored securely with multiple layers of encryption. Your information will be kept confidential and only accessible to NIOSH researchers.

Because the NFR is a long-term project, NIOSH researchers may reach out to you once a year with important voluntary follow-up questionnaires. Your continued participation is key to protecting firefighter health.

The NFR will open to all U.S. firefighters later in 2023.

If you have questions about the NFR, please contact