Getting Answers: January marks Firefighter Cancer Awareness Month

Cancer is the leading cause of death among firefighters across the country.
Published: Jan. 4, 2023 at 12:44 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 4, 2023 at 5:11 PM EST
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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - Cancer is the leading cause of death among firefighters across the country.

“We are at a nine percent higher risk than the average population of being diagnosed with cancer,” said Springfield Fire Capt. Drew Piemonte.

January marks Firefighter Cancer Awareness Month as occupational cancer is now the leading cause of death among first responders who fight fires and now surpasses heart disease. According to the International Association of Firefighters, cancer accounted for more than 74 percent of the line-of-duty deaths in 2022 nationwide. Piemonte told Western Mass News that despite technological improvements to gear, firefighters still have a 14 percent higher rate of dying from cancer.

“The early days of firefighting, we didn’t have Scott packs. Most of them early firefighters just wore rubber boots and rubber coats,” Piemonte added.

However, Piemonte told us they focus on educating new recruits early on about wearing gear properly, decontaminating after leaving a scene, and talking to a doctor about early detection.

“We encourage them to do early cancer screening,” Piemonte noted.

Even with all of the protective gear, the most common spot for firefighters to get cancer is in the throat and groin area.

“After members are diagnosed with cancer, we do have a support network through our International Association of Firefighters, our state affiliation, and our local affiliation,” Piemonte said.

Piemonte also said research is ongoing into other possible prevention measures moving forward.