SFFD Participates in NIOSH Study of Cancer among U.S. Firefighters - 2011

NIOSH Fire Fighter Cancer Study Newsletter - Fall 2011 (PDF)
NIOSH Fire Fighter Cancer Study Newsletter - Summer 2012 (PDF)


The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is the federal agency responsible for conducting scientific research for the prevention of work-related illness, injury, disability and death, and for making recommendations for improving safety and health in the workplace.  
Due to reports of “higher than normal” rates of cancer found among firefighters, NIOSH, with support from the United States Fire Administration, has embarked on expanded research to clarify the relationship between work-related exposures and incidents of cancer.  In previous studies of firefighters & cancer, which examined relatively small numbers of individuals, results were inconsistent.  Nevertheless, study results did identify four (4) cancers which were likely to occur among firefighters, presumably due to occupational exposures.  The primary recommendation from the fire service to NIOSH’s researchers was to conduct a large cohort study of career firefighters to clarify the relationship between firefighting and cancer.
The San Francisco Fire Department (SFFD), along with departments in Chicago and Philadelphia, has volunteered to assist NIOSH in their most comprehensive study ever of cancer among United States Firefighters.  The enrollment goal for this study is to obtain records for at least 30,000 firefighters.  This records-based study will be examining employment records of current and retired firefighters since 1950, following their general work history, and utilizing State cancer registries and National Death Index records to determine cancer incidence and mortality.  Basic exposure information - such as job title, fire station assignment, and employment duration - as well as the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) - such as self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) - and diesel emission controls will be collected and analyzed.
The SFFD began working with NIOSH in 2010, assisting with employee and work history data collection and coding.  By March 2011, approximately 5,800 retired and current firefighters from SFFD have been identified for the study.  Study stages and information acquired as of June 2011 are as follows:






 Stage 1

 Identify SF Firefighters Employed between 1950 and 2010 


 Stage 2

 Collect Work History Information [e.g., all job titles & fire station/company assignments]


 Stage 3

 Collect Exposure Information [e.g., fire runs by station]


 Stage 4

 Determination of Vital Status & Cause of Death 


 Stage 5

 Conduct Mortality Analyses 

 To Begin in 2012

 Stage 6

 Determine Cancer Incidence 


 Stage 7

 Conduct Cancer Incidence Analyses   To Begin in 2014


NIOSH currently anticipates the results of the study to be available by 2015.  Study results and recommendations will be communicated with labor and management from each participating fire department, the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), the Firefighter Cancer Support Network, current and retired firefighters, and other firefighter organizations.  All manuscripts will be submitted to peer-reviewed scientific journals.
This study has been approved for research by the Institutional Review Board of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and reviewed by the SFFD and the SF Firefighters Union, IAFF, Local 798.
For more information about this study, please contact NIOSH Principal Investigators, Travis Kubale, Ph.D. or Tom Hales, M.D., M.P.H.