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Cancer In The Fire Service

Cancer is a very real thing, it is rampant in our society. According to the American Cancer Society 2 out of every 3 people are diagnosed with cancer every day! This is with the normal goings on of humans. As we know as firefighters  just by the nature of what we do our risk for heart disease and cancer are increased ten fold. It is very rare that you find someone today that has no involvement on some level with cancer.

Not only that the types of cancer are just astronomical everything from your skin, to your private parts and everything in between can become infected with cancer. It is scary to think sometimes and really makes you wonder what can I do?

Much as there has been a cultural shift in regards to physical fitness to reduce instances of heart and cerebrovascular disease we must now under go another cultural shift in order to reduce our chances of getting cancer.

DSC_0116 This is a picture of a recruit firefighter from a training burn I participated in a couple of years back. It was your standard burn building firefighter 1 and 2 burn with pallets and hay bails, but even with these “normal” combustibles look at the discoloration of the gear. Also with exertion brings sweat and your pores are open and your body is primed to absorb any toxin that may be present. Now I am not casting stones in a glass house here. In fact I was probably the worst as I would NEVER wash my gear. I wanted the older guys who I looked up to, to know that I was able to do the job and go in deep like them. So I was the kid with the dirty helmet, dirty gear etc. I was also the guy who in order to show how tough he was would enter a fire or two with out is mask if it wasn’t “too smoky”. I was lucky enough to have mentors who smacked some sense into me, and unlucky enough to experience cancer on a personal level with the loss of a few family members and the diagnosis and survival of some as well.

I’ll be as plain as I can THE DIRTY LOOK ISN’T COOL ANYMORE, in fact it could be deadly!

We need to take steps to reduce the chance of us getting cancer, and we need to start NOW!

The Firefighter Cancer Support Network http://www.firefightercancersupport.org/ has offered some prevention tips


I will also add to that clean your tools after a fire. I can not count the amount of times I have gone to a fire, then gone to an alarm later on and touched dirty air packs, and hand tools with bare hands, and then didn’t wash them prior to using the restroom after the call, or just going back to bed.

Let me say again, I am GUILTY of trying to promote the “salty” look, but I have been wrong and am trying to change. Much like the changes I have made with fitness, or wearing my seatbelt. I’m not perfect but I am trying to change, not just for me but for the guys on shift, and my family at home.

Other Resources:

International Firefighter Cancer Foundation http://www.ffcancer.org/

International Association of Firefighters www.Iaff.org

NIOSH Firefighter Cancer Study http://www.firefightercancersupport.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/NIOSH-Firefighter-Cancer-Study-w-Summary.pdf

As usual thanks for reading, spread the word, and STAY SAFE! Oh and one more thing CANCER SUCKS!



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