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IARC report finds firefighting carcinogenic to humans

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) (the cancer agency of the World Health Organization) announced late last week it has classified occupational exposure as a firefighter as carcinogenic to humans. This is the first time an independent body of researchers has made this recognition.

The American Cancer Society relies on determinations of groups like IARC to determine known and probable carcinogens.

ACS senior scientific director, epidemiology research, Lauren Teras, PhD, was a member of the working group from eight countries which convened to evaluate available scientific literature and make an assessment on the issue. The group found “sufficient evidence” for cancer in humans for mesothelioma and bladder cancer; and limited evidence for cancer in humans for colon, prostate, and testicular cancers, melanoma of the skin, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. They rated occupational exposure as a firefighter as “group 1” on the IARC rating scale, indicating the highest level of certainty that something can cause cancer.

A summary article of this group’s work has been published in The Lancet Oncology

This topic is of particular interest to the American Cancer Society, which launched a collaboration in December 2021 with the International Association of Fire Fighters to help firefighters and emergency medical services personnel with detection, prevention, and treatment of cancer. The two organizations developed a comprehensive online resource that includes the latest support for cancer in the fire service, patient support services, prevention programs, and other important information for IAFF members facing a cancer diagnosis.

For more information on this topic please see:

IARC press release

IARC Q and A document.

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