January is Firefighter Cancer Awareness Month


Chief Sam DiGiovanna

As firefighters we’re really good at taking command and controlling fires and incidents of all types. One battle we have a lot to work on is controlling the battle against cancer.

I am seeing more and more of my personal friends and colleagues being diagnosed with cancer. It is always a shock hearing the news. But it is not just within my circle this is happening. The nation’s fire service is clearly seeing an increase in the adverse effects of firefighters getting cancer due to the carcinogens and other contaminates picked up in fires, overhaul, training and residual off-gassing from our PPE.

Cancer has become the second leading cause of deaths for firefighters throughout this country (Firefighter Cancer Alliance). It has become an epidemic that is killing our fellow firefighters and friends. Every firefighter likely knows at least one fellow firefighter impacted by this disease.

In partnership with the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) January has been designated as Firefighter Cancer Awareness Month to provide firefighters the necessary tools and guidance to develop life-saving protocols for cancer prevention and to support those with a cancer diagnosis within their departments.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) launched a multiyear study in 2010 to examine if firefighters have a higher risk of cancer due to job exposure (Daniels, 2017). The study found that firefighters have a 9 percent higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer and a 14 percent higher risk of dying from cancer than the general population. In addition, another study found that firefighters have a much higher risk than the general public of certain types of cancer, including double the risk of testicular cancer or mesothelioma.

Let’s make sure we get annual physicals, wear our PPE following department policy, and stay informed. Understand your cancer risk, know the exposures to carcinogens on the job and reduce your risk of occupational cancer with the new Cancer Awareness course.

This course, developed in conjunction with the Fire Fighter Cancer Support Network, is designed to help members avoid and decrease individual risk factors for cancer.

In addition to understanding why firefighters are at increased risk of cancer, this new training will:

  • Describe the most prominent types of cancer that affect fire fighters
  • Identify the top carcinogens in the firefighting environment
  • Review the major routes of exposure to carcinogens for fire fighters
  • Encourage behavior changes that can reduce the risk of developing cancer

Register for the course.

Learn More Here: https://firefightercancersupport.org/cancer-awareness-month/

About Chief Sam DiGiovanna

Sam DiGiovanna is a 33-year fire service veteran. He started with the Los Angeles County Fire Department, served as fire chief at the Monrovia Fire Department and currently serves as chief at the Verdugo Fire Academy in Glendale, Calif. In addition, he is a regular contributor to NBC News 4 Los Angeles.  Sam also serves as Executive Vice President of Fire Operations at CORDICO INC.