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Impact of Occupational Cancer

This is 1 of 6 critical issues identified at the 2022 U.S. Fire Administrator's Summit on Fire Prevention and Control for immediate action on the part of the federal government.

There may be updated information on this topic found from the 2023 U.S. Fire Administrator’s Summit on Fire Prevention and Control.

Establish a comprehensive firefighter cancer strategy that invests in research, provides access to cancer screening for firefighters, and reduces and eliminates PFAS exposure.

Issue: Firefighters have a 9% higher risk of developing cancer and a 14% higher risk of dying from cancer compared to the general public.

Impact areas


Greater investment in research will expand our understanding of the mechanisms between occupational exposures and cancer, why firefighters are at heightened risk for some cancers, and ensure we better understand the cancer risks of our understudied populations, including women and minorities.

Access to cancer screenings

Preventive screenings can identify cancer in its earliest stages when positive treatment outcomes are more likely. However, it remains difficult for individual firefighters to receive early screenings as current screening guidance does not account for their occupational exposures. Revised screening guidance can help medical professionals and insurance companies understand the need to screen firefighters based on their higher cancer risk.

Reduce and eliminate PFAS exposures

PFAS are likely carcinogenic chemicals that degrade very slowly, earning the label “forever chemicals.” PFAS are found in firefighters' blood, their firehouses, some firefighting foams, and perhaps most concerning, bunker gear. These chemicals are intensifying exposures coming from the very gear meant to protect firefighters. Next-generation PPE can remove this risk.

Firefighters: Sign up for the National Firefighter Registry

The registry is the largest effort ever undertaken to understand and reduce risk of cancer among U.S. firefighters. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is recruiting firefighters to join the registry so that it can better understand the link between firefighting and cancer.