Stand strong against cancer

By the NVFC

Firefighters and emergency responders may face increased risk of cancer due to environmental and behavior factors. While research is still being conducted to determine if first responders are at higher risk of getting certain types of cancer than the rest of the population, there are measures that first responders should take to eliminate dangerous behaviors that could lead to a cancer diagnosis.

Exposure to carcinogens such as asbestos, soot, and tobacco smoke are linked with certain types of cancers. Emergency personnel should wear full PPE when at the fireground to lessen risk of exposure to smoke, soot, and contaminants. First responders should also refrain from smoking, or quit if you are currently a smoker. It is also important to get regular screenings for common types of cancers to ensure that if you do have cancer it is caught early so that treatment can begin as soon as possible.

Other lifestyle choices that can help lessen your risk of certain types of cancer include maintaining a healthy weight, participating in regular physical activity, eating a health diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, limited alcohol consumption, and protecting your skin (source: American Cancer Society). Take this day of National Firefighter Health Week to identify your cancer risks and what you can do to minimize these risks.

What You Can Do Today
  • If you smoke, make a plan to quit. The NVFC’s Put It Out smoking cessation initiative has tools and information to help you – visit to get started today.
  • Implement a smoking cessation campaign in your department. Even if you don’t smoke, you could be increasing your risk of cancer through exposure to second-hand smoke. Plus, by helping your department members become smoke-free, you’re improving the health of your whole team. Find information and tools at
  • Get screened. Regular health screenings help you stay in charge of your health and can ensure you catch any problems early. This podcast covers the importance of regular health screenings and the types of screenings recommended for different age groups.
  • Get moving. Exercise reduces your risk of many diseases, including cancer.
  • Limit alcohol intake. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drinking daily increases the risk of mouth, voice box, throat, liver, breast, and colon cancer. Remember that you can still enjoy drinks in moderation.
  • Put on your sunscreen – and more. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. To help prevent skin cancer while still having fun outdoors, protect yourself by seeking shade, applying sunscreen, and wearing sun-protective clothing, a hat, and sunglasses.

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