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  1. #1
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    Exclamation Cancer in Firefighters

    Anyone out there familar with statistics of firefighters with cancer? I am aware of some older studies, and there is a bit of speculation, just looking for some facts.

    I was recently diagnosed with bladder cancer, just curious if there is a place on the forum to discuss this issue, thanks!


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    Forum Member skyraider's Avatar
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    Capt, sorry to hear about your diagnosis. You can always discuss your issues here; not sure many will be able to empathize, but everyone will listen and offer you support.

    I assume you've taken a look at the Johns Hopkins Study here on FH.com, although it's specific to one training location. https://hopkinsnet.jhu.edu/servlet/p...hema=PORTAL30P )

    Perhaps with enough digging around you can get in touch with one of the locals who may have a support group. Here are two articles from Canadian sources:

    Alberta Fire Fighter Win Cancer Legislation:
    http://list.mc.duke.edu/cgi-bin/wa?A...l&F=&S=&P=4851


    B.C. firefighters fight for cancer benefits:
    http://www.thetyee.ca/News/2005/02/0...ightersDemand/

    I'll keep you in my prayers.

  3. #3
    Cpt. Common Sents nbfcfireman's Avatar
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    Exclamation

    I dont know about cancer but more than a few of the firefighters in our fire department have had kids that either had birth defects or severe learning disabilities. We also had 1 firefighter with leukemia, 1 with colon cancer, 1 with skin cancer and 2 with lung cancer. All of the guys that had kids with problems all believe that it is a direct result of toxins that were passed on to there children.

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    I have to wonder how the proctection and national standards in place for firefighters now compare to past years.

    I'd imagine the technology has improved a long way from the protection it provided in the 60's,70's, and 80's

    As far as some of the cancers go..such as lung cancer.. there were more smokers in the 70's and 80's as well so I would imagine that would play a part too.
    Last edited by zokambaa; 09-13-2005 at 10:28 PM.

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    Exclamation smoking

    No question that smoking can play a part as it is a strong pre-cursor to many types of cancer. In my former life I was an asbestos instructor, the data indicates that there is a 50-90 times greater chance of developing one of the asbestos related diseases such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, asbestosis and GI tract cancers.

    That is why almost no self respecting asbestos abatement firm will hire a smoker. Imagine that in a fire department!

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by captdave12
    Anyone out there familar with statistics of firefighters with cancer? I am aware of some older studies, and there is a bit of speculation, just looking for some facts.

    I was recently diagnosed with bladder cancer, just curious if there is a place on the forum to discuss this issue, thanks!

    Below is a link to Olympia, Washington Firefighter Mark Noble's video. His wish was to help other firefighters from suffering anything like the brain tumor that took his life. Its a video telling his story, in his own words, and has alot of info on cancer.

    http://www.ergometricsonline.com/markNoble/play.cfm

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    Smile Mark Noble Video

    Thanks for the link, it should be required viewing for all firefighters, especially those tough enough not to need a SCBA during routine fires.

    Was hoping for specific empirical evidence of some of the statistics quoted, but assuming he is only 1/2 right we have a fair amount to be worried about.

    Be safe out there, keep your turnout gear clean, wash often after any exposure!

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    So out of curiosity I will throw this out there.

    Yesterday a study came out (listed on MSNBC, CNN, etc) showing that HALF of all men and ONE THIRD of women in the United States will have cancer of some kind. This means that somewhere between 35-50% of your department will have to deal with cancer (statistically speaking) at some point in their lives just as a factor of being alive (reasons were not given for the high rate of cancer, you can draw your own speculation on this).

    Do you still feel that exposure from firefighting is as significant a risk factor for cancer? Now, I'm not saying that running into a smoke filled room without a mask and sucking down a big gulp of the stuff won't contribute, or that your skin won't absorb some sort of carcinogen if you don't wash it off, but do cancer rates in firefighting come close to (or exceed) the apparently real national average this study shows? In other words, if you use the protective gear you have and minimize any exposure to "nasty stuff", are you really increasing the risk by doing this job any more than what is already there?

    Just some food for thought. I wondered about this a couple months ago at random, then saw this thread last week. When the study came out yesterday I had to wonder...

    EDIT: I also just watched Mark's video, which highlights the need to really minimize the risk factors. What I'm really curious about is once you've done that, how close to the average person does your risk become?
    Last edited by rforsythe; 11-08-2005 at 07:23 PM.

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    I was at an Arson school and was talking to an ATF agent and he stated that the ATF is looking into why this is as they too have quite a number of agents that did fire investigation come down with bladder cancer. You may want to check with your regional ATF field office.

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    Default Cancer rates

    Good replies: the tricky thing about stating that cancer rates are higher in firefighters is that we do other things with our life. We may have had a previous job exposure, another job, bad genes, or smoke which all change the risk of getting a cancer.

    The average person does live longer, and thus will have a higher risk of some sort of cancer, all those cell divisions, sooner or later one of them go awry. I did see a Michigan Department of Public Health study that really reached no conclusions, yes there are some higher rates, but is this due to better detection or a higher rate amongst a specific job group was not clear. No question that the ability to detect these cancers is much better than is used to be and far more readily available.

    I am not sure I am ready to accept that there is a higher rate, I was just searching for some sort of evidence, the Mark Noble video quoted that there was a higher rate, but without some sort of evidence this is not a fact.

    I would agree that keeping your gear clean and wearing the SCBA are your best defense, although I do worry a bit about what we absorb through our skin.

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    Quote Originally Posted by captdave12
    ...or smoke
    What percentage of FFs smoke, do you think? Could a study then be broken down to isolate them from non-smokers who don't do other potentially carcinogenic jobs? It's a lot of work to be sure, but might be worth someone doing.

    snip...
    No question that the ability to detect these cancers is much better than is used to be and far more readily available.
    Indeed. I'm not sure any group of study has been constant enough for long enough to reach anything conclusive. I don't doubt that cancer rates in general population are on the rise, but this comes from a number of areas. More/better detection, increased pollution in the atmosphere, different types of pollution than 20/50/100 years ago, possibly other elements, etc. And of course for every study saying a certain thing causes cancer there is another one that says the data is inconclusive (with some exceptions).

    I would agree that keeping your gear clean and wearing the SCBA are your best defense, although I do worry a bit about what we absorb through our skin.
    True, though unless you're frolicking in wet nasty stuff it probably isn't a huge risk. Certainly wash off after you are exposed in a fire, but your skin is designed as a natural barrier to bad things. I think for the most part (and I am no doctor, so take this accordingly) something small enough on the surface of your skin could be absorbed, but if it's dry that will take some time to happen. Skin is real good at keeping contaminants out, unless it becomes breached or enough moisture exists to allow absorption to occur.

    For example, a study was done on agricultural workers to learn the rate of dermatological absoprtion of a certain pesticide. They used a standard temperature, and only varied the relative humidity at 50%, 70% and 90% levels to effect the skin moisture. The absorption rate within that range went from 13% to 63% of what they called the 'potentially absorbed dose'. What that means is if you get covered in contaminants (smoke particulates, other small chemical particles, etc) in a damp environment or with wet clothing, the amount your skin will intake dramatically increases. Really, you want a nice hot room since it will dry most of the moisture out of it. Try to keep yourself dry until you can take a shower, and I believe (semi-unscientifically, of course) you can drastically reduce your chances of meaningful exposure to carcinogens (assuming you wore your PPE to begin with).

    Wouldn't a controlled study like that one specifically pertaining to firefighting be nice to see?

  12. #12
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    Default Firefighter Cancer Support

    Sorry to say I do not have the answer to your question, however I am proud to announce that there is help out there for Firefighters who are diagnosed with any form of cancer. I am a Firefighter Paramedic with Los Angeles County Fire Department, and a cancer survivor. We have now formed a "Firefighter Cancer Support Network". This "Network" is primarily comprimised of Firefighters who are cancer survivors, care givers or those that have had personal intrest in dealing with cancer. We offer a network of survivors willing to help those diagnosed and not face the disease alone. I found no better comfort when diagnosed with colorectal cancer at the age of 39, than from those that have already been there. Please visit our website: www.FirefighterCancerSupport.org
    Feel free to leave any comment or request for assistance or how your department can join the ranks of this endeavor. Best Wishes, Duby.

  13. #13
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    Default FirefighterPatrick

    Hello All Fellow Fighters;
    I have just recently been diagnosed with both bladder cancer and prostate cancer. Yes, both at the same time. A double whammy, one might say. Anyway, I was wondering if any fellow fighter(s) out there could lead me in the right direction as to doctors, clinics, websites reports and the whatnot supporting the links between bladder cancer and prostate cancer and firefighting. Most doctors will NOT write you off under the heart, lung and cancer bill. They want to send you back to work even though you've had bladder cancer and prostate cancer... Doesn't it sound all too familiar? We need to help one another on this. Please, respond with any info. It will be GREATLY appreciated!!!

    FirefighterPatrick

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    Quote Originally Posted by rforsythe View Post
    So out of curiosity I will throw this out there.

    Yesterday a study came out (listed on MSNBC, CNN, etc) showing that HALF of all men and ONE THIRD of women in the United States will have cancer of some kind. This means that somewhere between 35-50% of your department will have to deal with cancer (statistically speaking) at some point in their lives just as a factor of being alive (reasons were not given for the high rate of cancer, you can draw your own speculation on this).

    Do you still feel that exposure from firefighting is as significant a risk factor for cancer? Now, I'm not saying that running into a smoke filled room without a mask and sucking down a big gulp of the stuff won't contribute, or that your skin won't absorb some sort of carcinogen if you don't wash it off, but do cancer rates in firefighting come close to (or exceed) the apparently real national average this study shows? In other words, if you use the protective gear you have and minimize any exposure to "nasty stuff", are you really increasing the risk by doing this job any more than what is already there?

    Just some food for thought. I wondered about this a couple months ago at random, then saw this thread last week. When the study came out yesterday I had to wonder...

    EDIT: I also just watched Mark's video, which highlights the need to really minimize the risk factors. What I'm really curious about is once you've done that, how close to the average person does your risk become?
    I agree with what you are saying here.

    There is No Evidence.......at least from all my research that indicates that Firefighters have a Higher Degree of Cancer Risk than the overall General Population.There are more Hereditary Factors involved than occupational just like some smokers get cancer some dont.

    To add to the above it is also well known that by far the Majority of calls are Non Fire Emerdencies ie Traffic Accidents or Medical Emergencies.People who camp a lot and sit around Campfires in my opinion have more exposure to pollutants than Firefighters.

    The area I live in it was enacted into law 6 years ago and became part of our Workers Compensation Regulations that Arbitrarily determined that all cancers contracted by Firefighters are Deemed work related unless proven otherwise.

    We now have a Discriminatory system where all other occupations are required to prove Work Related Cancer incidence while it is Enshrined into law that there is no Requirement for Firefighters to prove the same.

    Last but not least.......One must wonder if firefighting is such a disadvantaged occupation ,how it is that the amount of wishful applicants for the Job could probably form a lineup that stretches from coast to coast.

    No Evidence Exists that Firefighters are more prone to cancer than the General Population.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by captdave12 View Post
    Anyone out there familar with statistics of firefighters with cancer? I am aware of some older studies, and there is a bit of speculation, just looking for some facts.

    I was recently diagnosed with bladder cancer, just curious if there is a place on the forum to discuss this issue, thanks!
    Hi,,,
    I am not familiar with the current statistic.In my view you can post it the thread of Health and Wellness.
    I can't particularly mentioned you any treatment nor should I advice you to post your case here.Use of statins and outcome of BCG treatment for bladder cancer.
    I advice you to visited your nearest health care center for better advice.
    The greatest of faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none.

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    Patrick a member of my department has been diagnosed as you were with both. I am researching the connection between teh two and firefighting, have you found any information since your post. Thanks

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