IRSST - Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail

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Recent Data on the Association Between Firefighting and the Prevalence of Cancer Provide Little Certainty


Recent Data on the Association Between Firefighting and the Prevalence of Cancer Provide Little Certainty

While associations have been found between firefighting and the development of some forms of cancer, the epidemiological data are insufficient to prove or disprove an association with other cancers.

This is the conclusion of a review of the epidemiological literature published by the IRSST that follows on from one conducted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) released in 2010. The IRSST authors combed through over 600 publications produced between 2007—the last year covered by the IARC review—and 2017. They deemed 25 of the 600 to be relevant.

The strongest evidence of association concerns an excess number of cases of mesothelioma attributable to asbestos among firefighters active over 30 years ago. Lung cancer has not been entirely ruled out, but the association is not as strong as for mesothelioma in the papers reviewed. The quality of the evidence of an association between the occupation of firefighter and other forms of cancer was not sufficiently strong, but studies have reported more frequent cases of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and prostate cancer in this occupational group.

All evidence of a link between firefighting and the development of cancers must also take into account the conclusions of other, earlier reviews of the literature.