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

Critical review of the literature: Cancer and fire fighters


This project resulted in three scientific literature reviews on the specific risks of some cancers and the fire fighter profession. Colorectal cancer, leukemia, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma are the subjects of these publications.

A fourth analysis addresses the risks of some cancers in fire fighters. Multiple myeloma, and cancer of the respiratory tract, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, prostate, testicles and skin are the subject of this final review.

Colorectal cancer: Available epidemiological data do not provide sufficient proof about the etiological role of the fire fighter profession regarding the incidence of colon or rectal cancer or the mortality due to these cancers.

Development of leukemia: Available epidemiological data do not generally support a conclusion in which the job of fire fighter constitutes an unequivocal risk of leukemia.

Development of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma: Exposure to possible carcinogenic substances such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), benzene, 1,3-butadiene and diesel emissions is linked to this fire fighting, and some publications have assumed that these chemicals could be involved in the development of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL). Available epidemiological data are relatively compatible with the existence of an increased risk of NHL or the absence of effect on its incidence in fire fighters. The absence of a clearly defined mechanistic factor also raises difficulties. Known or suspected risk factors for NHL are not found more particularly in fire fighters. Even if a fire fighter with NHL may have developed the disease as a result of his job, this conclusion cannot be arrived at from the data currently available in the literature.

Multiple myeloma, and cancer of the respiratory tract, eosophagus, stomach, pancreas, prostate, testicles and skin: Available epidemiological data do not indicate that the cancers examined in this analysis can be assumed to occur in fire fighters as a result of their profession. This conclusion is based on the absence of a significant increase in risk in most of the studies and the minimal increase in risk in the cases where it is present.

Additional Information

Type: Project
Number: 0099-4010
Status: Completed
Year of completion: 2007
  • Douglas B. McGregor (Douglas McGregor)