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Study claims firefighters have high cancer risk

Firefighters already have a very dangerous job, running into burning buildings to save people and put fires out, when most people are running away. However, one study found that they may also face serious issues with cancer, as they have a high risk of developing the disease.

Essentially, the study just compared the number of deaths from cancer and the number of times firefighters were diagnosed with cancer to the same rates for the general population. In both cases, firefighters outpaced the population, showing their career could put them at greater risk.

The types of cancer did vary. A lot of them were oral cancers, urinary cancers, or cancers of the digestive or respiratory systems.

One important thing to note is that firefighters were about twice as likely to have malignant mesothelioma. This is noteworthy because that specific type of cancer is actually rather rare, and it's caused by asbestos. Since it is no longer legal to build with asbestos, those who did the study determined that firefighters had the high rate since they were exposed to it when structures that had been built with it caught on fire. A lot of the danger comes from breathing in asbestos particles.

As expected, the risk for some types of cancer -- like lung cancer -- went up when firefighters spent more time actively working on live fires and trying to put them out. Interestingly, the amount of deaths from leukemia went up when firefighters were on more fire runs.

All told, it appears that cancer is a very serious risk that can't be ignored in this industry. Those who develop it may want to know what rights they could have to workers' compensation.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Findings from a Study of Cancer among U.S. Fire Fighters," accessed March 21, 2017

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