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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UMiami: Study Examines 33-Year Data to Investigate Cancer Risk in over 100,000 Career Florida Firefighters

While male firefighters are at an increased risk for select skin, digestive, and respiratory cancers, studies in this area are limited by relatively small samples on the cancer experiences of female firefighters.

A new study published by the American Journal of Industrial Medicine examined cancer risk in over 100,000 career Florida firefighters, including approximately 5,000 females who were assessed from 1981 to 2014. Researchers from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s NCI-designated Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, Florida Cancer Data System, Department of Public Health Sciences, and Department of Medicine co-authored the study.

To conduct the study, researchers linked 109,000 Florida firefighter employment records with 3.3 million registry data from the Florida Cancer Data System, which was recorded from 1981 to 2014. They identified 3,760 male and 169 female-linked cancers.  The cancer experience of firefighters was then compared to the cancer experience of Florida residents over the same time period.

Findings showed that male firefighters were at an increased risk of melanoma, prostate, testicular, thyroid and late-stage colon cancer. Female firefighters showed a significantly elevated risk of brain and thyroid cancers and an elevated risk of melanoma that approached statistical significance.

While there was some evidence for increased cancer risk in female firefighters, additional research is needed fully characterize their risk, according Dr. David Lee, who directed the analysis and who is professor at the Miller School of Medicine’s Department of Public Health Sciences. “We were unable to reliably assess risk for many less common types of cancer among our female firefighters. Larger studies which combine data across larger geographic regions are needed to characterize risk in this growing segment of the firefighter workforce.”

Regardless, these findings, combined with those reported for firefighters outside of Florida, are being used to educate firefighters on their risk and to inform best-practices for reducing carcinogen exposures during and after firefighting activities via a state-funded Firefighter Cancer Initiative Project housed in the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. The ultimate goal of the project is the reduction of cancer burden in the fire service.