Firefighters and cancer - IOM report

It is recognised that firefighters can be exposed to many different harmful substances, some of which are known or suspected to cause cancer.  In 2007 the International Agency for Research on Cancer convened a working group to assess the carcinogenicity of work as a firefighter, and increased rates of testicular and prostate cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma were identified for firefighting.  However, they concluded on the basis of “limited evidence in humans” that work as a firefighter was “possibly carcinogenic to humans”. 

The IOM has now carried out a three-phase study that:

  • examined the research published since a 2010 review carried out by the IOM for the UK Industrial Injuries Advisory Council (IIAC), by carrying out a systematic review and preliminary meta-analysis of the epidemiological evidence for specific cancers in firefighters;
  • examined the occupational exposures associated with the cancers identified in Phase 1 and whether these exposures occurred in firefighters and;
  • looked in more detail at the potential exposures of firefighters to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) as these were the most commonly identified potential causal factor in Phase 2.

Links to the summary of the report and to the full report are provided below.

Summary Report

Full Report