WHO cancer division reclassifies firefighting as a Group 1 carcinogenic profession

The decision "could pave the way for more regulations and funding to protect firefighters, as well as for those who are already battling cancer," said Dr. Alberto Caban-Martinez


By Leila Merrill

LYON, France — The International Agency for Research on Cancer, the World Health Organization’s cancer agency, announced earlier this month that it has elevated its classification for the firefighting occupation to a Group 1 carcinogenic profession.

The new IARC designation means that the firefighting profession is carcinogenic to humans, whereas previous classifications only deemed it possible that firefighters may get cancer.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, the World Health Organization’s cancer agency, changed its classification for the firefighting occupation from possibly carcinogenic to carcinogenic.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer, the World Health Organization’s cancer agency, changed its classification for the firefighting occupation from possibly carcinogenic to carcinogenic.

The findings were published in The Lancet.

The IARC also concluded that there is sufficient evidence for bladder cancer and mesothelioma in firefighters globally, and there is limited evidence that firefighting causes colon, prostate and testicular cancers, plus melanoma (skin cancer) and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

"Now that the profession is deemed carcinogenic, it could pave the way for more regulations and funding to protect firefighters, as well as for those who are already battling cancer," Alberto Caban-Martinez, D.O., Ph.D., M.P.H., C.P.H., deputy director of Sylvester’s Firefighter Cancer Initiative, and assistant professor of public health sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine said in an article. He was one of the 25 experts on the IARC panel that reviewed the scientific literature.

Some of the findings about epigenetic and receptor-mediated mechanisms of cancer came from studies led by Jeff Burgess, MD, PhD, professor in the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health and BIO5 Institute member, in collaboration with the Tucson Fire Department.  

“This is a really important outcome that our research has helped to support, but it's also just the beginning,” Burgess said. “Now it's our job to work with the fire service to help way find ways of preventing these increased numbers of cancers.”


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