Research Papers

Cancer in Firefighters Research Essay

Researchers note that the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) previously put forward the theory that working as a fireman can increase the likelihood of cancer. Doctors monitored the health of the fire brigade but did not establish a causal link. As noted by Canadian scientists, large-scale research on the health of firefighters had not been conducted before, so they decided to fill the gaps. Having agreed with the Canadian Fire Service, the scientists took urine samples, skin smears, and air samples from the lungs from the fire department just before leaving for the next fire and immediately after returning to the base.

Researchers collected more than a hundred tests to find out whether the harmful carcinogens that they receive during work are ingested by men. It turned out that upon returning to the base, on the skin and in the urine of firefighters, the concentration of carcinogens increased by 2.5 times.

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This concentration can increase the number of mutations in cells by about four times over the next few days, and in some cases the concentration was so high that the mutation rate increased by 70-74 times. Scientists note that carcinogens enter the body of firefighters through the skin and mucous membranes, not through the respiratory tract. This is evidenced by the tests of urine, in which there were no proteins PGF2A and CC16 that would indicate lung damage and cell death.

Although firefighters use protective masks and suits, high temperatures contribute to the expansion of pores into which carcinogen molecules easily penetrate. In epidemiological studies of firefighters, it is most difficult to distinguish lung cancer among other types of the latter. The main question is whether the risk of cancer among firefighters has increased the use of synthetic materials in building and finishing materials since the fifties, due to the contact of firefighters with products of combustion. Even though certain carcinogens are present in the smoke, it is rather difficult to make one vivid and obvious statement that those are in the charge of harm that afterwards may cause lung cancer. In other words, being a fireman is connected with the risk of having and developing a lung cancer. This is particularly evident among firefighters, who expose themselves to the greatest danger and have the greatest industrial experience. Additional risk may be imposed on an even greater risk from smoking. Reflections on the relationship between the work of firefighters and lung cancer suggest that such a relationship is weak and makes it impossible to conclude that this risk should be attributed to the profession. This conclusion is confirmed by the increased number of lung cancer cases of firemen that are relatively young and have never had experience of smoking.

Recently, it has been proven that other types of cancer are more consistently linked to the work of firefighters than lung cancer. There is ample evidence that this profession is consistently associated with diseases of the urogenital system such as kidney, ureter, and bladder cancer. With the exception of bladder cancer, the other two types are quite rare, and the risk of disease among firefighters is quite large, close to or twice the relative risk. Thus, it can be assumed that these types of cancer are related to the work of firefighters, unless convincing evidence is found that this is not the case. Among the reasons that allow to doubt (or refute) in each case, may be smoking in large quantities, contact with carcinogenic substances, schistosomiasis (parasitic infection – this applies only to bladder cancer), abuse of painkillers, chemotherapy of cancer and urological conditions that lead to stasis and urinary retention in the urinary tract (“Fighting Fires. Fighting Cancer.”). Basing on the logic, these criteria may not be viewed as valid because very little evidence is present in the analysis of cases. It especially concerns cancer that emerges in the brain or nervous system since not too many cases are available for analysis when it concerns professional activity of the firemen. It is unlikely that this link would be clarified in the near future. Hence, it is quite reasonable to recognize the risk of an illness as an occupational disease of firefighters based on the available data. It seems that the risk of cancer of the lymphatic and hematopoietic systems is quite high. Since these types of cancer are rare, for statistical purposes, epidemiologists consider them the same group, which makes their interpretation even more difficult, since it does not make sense from a medical point of view.

There is no convincing answer to the question of whether people are at the increased risk of death from heart disease. Although the only large study showed an increase of 11%, and another study reported an increase in mortality from coronary heart disease by as much as 52%, most researchers did not come to the conclusion that the risk to the entire population is constantly increasing. Even if the higher scores are correct, relative risk assessments are still not enough to make an assumption of risk in each individual case.

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Works Cited
“Fighting Fires. Fighting Cancer.” International Fire Fighter, 2008, pp. 22–24, Accessed June 4, 2019.
IAFF. Support House Bill 1768. 2008, Accessed June 4, 2019.
International Agency for Research on Cancer, Accessed June 4, 2019.
“The Silent Killer – Firefighter Cancer.” YouTube, uploaded by MU Fire and Rescue Training Institute, 22 Feb. 2016, Accessed June 4, 2019.