SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- Each and every day, firefighters are exposed to carcinogens that could potentially cause them to get ill.

Firefighters have a greater chance and risk of developing cancer. That’s why early detection is important.

On Thursday, the Springfield Fire Department participated in 1540 Connection’s early detection training, a national education and advocacy organization that teachers firefighters how to protect themselves.

“In fact, between 2002 and 2016, 61 percent of line-of-duty deaths were caused by cancer,” said Heather Maykel, the first responder lead at 1540 Connection.

Maykel told Western Mass News that cancer statistics surrounding fire fighters is alarming.

“Forty percent of Americans, unfortunately, will receive a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime, so knowing how to detect cancer early is important for everybody, but firefighters have nine percent risk beyond that,”Maykel added.

Not only is the risk of getting cancer is high for a firefighter, they have a 14 percent greater risk of dying from cancer, so here’s what firefighters should look for.

“Any subtle and persistent changes to their health, loss of appetite, weight loss…lumps, self-detecting, monitoring, and annual physicals,” said Springfield Fire Capt. Drew Piemonte.

Piemonte said each and every day, firefighters are exposed to hazardous materials.

“Be aware of the signs and symptoms that cancer presents with all the different classifications of materials being built in construction with the new modern plastics and carcinogens that are at every fire we go to,” Piemonte added.

Not only are these carcinogens harmful to these firefighters, they can be harmful to their families as well.

“If they don’t shower within an hour after a fire and they go home and when their kids hug their necks and say ‘I’m so happy you’re home,’ those carcinogens can transfer to kids,” Maykel noted.

This early detection is personal to the firefighters here in Springfield, which makes this training even more important

“We've had multiple members of the department that have had position cancer detection that they didn’t go get treated for or they waited to go get the symptoms checked,” Piemonte said.

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