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Firefighters four times more likely to contract cancer than the rest of the population

CANCER is on average more than four times more common among firefighters because of their work, new research has revealed.

The research, commissioned by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and carried out by the University of Central Lancashire in Preston, found that one in every 100 firefighters was likely to contract cancer.

Contact with toxic chemicals released during fires, and some of the materials used to fight them, are among the hazards faced by firefighters.

The FBU is calling for regular health screening of all firefighters to detect early signs of cancer and other work-related illnesses.

More than 10,000 firefighters were involved in the survey, which found that 4.1 per cent had been diagnosed with cancer, compared with less than 1 per cent of the general population.

Of those diagnosed, 26 per cent have skin cancer, the most common type, followed by testicular cancer (10 per cent), head and neck cancer (4 per cent) and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (3 per cent).

Half of the survey respondents also did not think that their fire service takes decontamination practices, including cleaning PPE and equipment, seriously.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “Firefighters risk their lives every day to keep their communities safe. But it’s clear that the risk to their health doesn’t stop when the fire has been extinguished.

“Sadly we often see serving and former firefighters suffer from cancer and other illnesses. 

“There are some hard truths for fire and rescue services in this report – far more needs to be done to protect firefighters from cancer and other illnesses. 

“This research is a crucial first step in definitively proving the link between firefighting, toxic contaminants and cancer in the UK.”


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