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The number one cancer in firefighters

Cancer is a leading cause of death among civilian and military firefighters. According to the International Association of Fire Fighters, in 2022, cancer accounted for over 74% of line-of-duty deaths.

The risk of cancer among civilian and military firefighters is significantly high for certain types of cancers.

Studies also suggest higher cancer rates for this occupational group compared to the general population.

The most common cancer types in firefighters

Epidemiology studies found that urogenital cancers, especially prostate cancer, are firefighters' most common malignant diseases. Occupational studies indicate that high PFOA levels and other PFAS from AFFF may be associated with a considerably increased prostate cancer incidence and mortality risk among firefighters. Prostate cancer risk increases with PFAS exposure, so the more often firefighters use this toxic firefighting foam, the more likely they will develop prostate cancer.

Testicular cancer is another common cancer in firefighters, as they are twice as susceptible to developing it than average men. From the chemicals in the PFAS group, PFOA substances have the strongest connection with testicular cancer. Recent studies have shown that these substances can mimic hormones such as estrogen and testosterone and eventually cause testicular cancer in firefighters who were exposed to these chemicals. PFOA exposure was also associated with a higher risk of kidney cancer among firefighters with a history of AFFF exposure.

Other prevalent cancer types among firefighters

In addition to toxic compounds that get released in smoke, firefighters are also exposed to the hazardous chemicals from AFFF; for this reason, they have higher rates of cancer than individuals with other jobs. According to The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, firefighters have an increased risk for the following cancers:

  • bladder cancer
  • leukemia
  • male breast cancer
  • liver cancer
  • pancreatic cancer
  • non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
  • multiple myeloma
  • malignant melanoma
  • brain cancer
  • colon cancer
  • mesothelioma

Firefighters diagnosed with cancer at younger ages

The 2013 Daniels NIOSH study, an extensive study of U.S. firefighters that examined cancer incidence for 30,000 firefighters, found a higher risk of bladder and prostate cancers in firefighters at younger ages. Firefighters tend to be diagnosed with cancer at much younger ages than the general population as a result of toxic exposure on the job, as, besides PFAS from the fire suppressant, they come in contact with other harmful substances such as:

  • carbon monoxide
  • hydrogen cyanide
  • ammonia
  • hydrogen chloride
  • sulfur dioxide
  • formaldehyde
  • benzene
  • toluene

How long it takes for AFFF exposure to result in cancer? It depends mainly on factors such as the period of toxic exposure, the firefighters' overall health, and the genetic predisposition to cancer.

Studies that support the link between firefighters and higher cancer rates

Civilian and military firefighters who regularly use AFFF inevitably come in contact with hazardous PFAS chemicals, even if they wear protective gear. According to several studies, cancer is by far the most dangerous threat to civilian and military firefighters' health and safety:

  • Data from the International Association of Fire Fighters shows that cancer caused 66% of firefighter line-of-duty deaths from 2002 to 2019.
  • Research by the CDC and National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety suggests that firefighters have a greater risk of developing cancer and higher risk of dying from it than the general US population.
  • The 2013 Daniels NIOSH study that examined cancer incidence for 30,000 firefighters found statistically significant incidence rates of cancers of the kidney, intestines, oral cavity, esophagus, and lung, and increased rate of mesothelioma in firefighters compared to the general US population.
  • The 2015 Daniels NIOSH study examined firefighters' work histories and variables and compared the cancer risk of firefighters with higher exposure to carcinogen substances to those with lower exposure. The result of the study is that lung cancer and leukemia risk increased with toxic exposure.
  • The 2008 Kang Massachusetts study researchers examined data from 1987-2003 comparing cancer incidence among Massachusetts firefighters to that of police officers. Researchers found firefighters had a 90% greater risk for brain cancer and an 81% higher risk for Hodgkin's lymphoma.
  • The Fangchao Ma Florida study compared the cancer incidence rates of firefighters from Florida to those of the general population. Researchers examined data for 2,017 female and 34,796 male firefighters in 2006 and found 1,032 cancer cases. The most prominent cancers for male firefighters were urogenital cancers - prostate, bladder and testicular cancers. The most common cancers for female firefighters in Florida were breast, skin, thyroid, and lung cancers.

Eligibility requirements to file a claim for AFFF exposure

Firefighters should know that if they worked with aqueous film-forming foam and developed cancer, they might be eligible to file an AFFF claim with the responsible manufacturers. To be eligible to file a claim for AFFF exposure, firefighters must have worked after 1967, when the fire suppressant became the norm for extinguishing Class B fires.

The following cancers might deem firefighters eligible to file a claim for AFFF exposure:

With over 35 years of experience evaluating toxic exposure cases, our team of experts can evaluate your claim and help you contact a reliable attorney.