Women in Firefighting - Photo by KIRTJ.se
30 Jul 2022

Scientific WHO workgroup 2022 determines firefighters are at high risk for occupational cancer


To work as a firefighter increases the risk of cancer, according to an expert group within the World Health Organization (WHO). The risk of cancer is classified as significantly higher than previously. The effects on the body from firefighters work  is now considered "certainly carcinogenic".

Firefighters run a greater risk than previously known of suffering from cancer, according to an international expert group, appointed by the WHO Institute for Cancer Research (IARC). The group recently conducted a scientific investigation into firefighting:

"The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer agency of the World Health Organization (WHO), has re-evaluated firefighting and classified firefighter occupational exposure as a group 1 carcinogen, stating there is sufficient evidence for cancer in humans, " states a July 16 article on IAFF.org.   

The context is so well documented that the firefighters' work is now classified as "certainly carcinogenic" on the IARC's list of exposures that can cause cancer in humans, according to a statement by the expert group leader Johnni Hansen, to the Ritzau news agency.

Canadian fire officer Alex Forrest from Manitoba, a known advocate for awareness and research around firefighters, has been part of leading this work with the support from IARC for two decades, according to IAFF.org. 

Alex Forrest has lectured on firefighters cancer at CTIF's Delegates Assembly in Helsinkki in 2016. Mr Forest has also supported the work of the CTIF Firefighters Health Commission, chaired by Tommy Baekgaard Kjaer in Denmark. 

Alex Forrest says that "over time the new IARC classification will make firefighting safer because there is now a formal medical consensus concerning fire fighter occupational cancer."

"The new classification culminates a 20-year IAFF effort to gain IARC support for occupational cancer, led by Forrest, who is also District 13 Field Services Representative and President of the Manitoba Professional Fire Fighters Association. Forrest, with the full support of the IAFF, joined the IARC Working Group five years ago as the only fire fighter and non-medical professional", according to the IAFF web page.  

summary of the final evaluations is published online in The Lancet Oncology.


Photo Credit (Above): A female firefighter in Sweden performing hot fire training. Photo: KIRTJ.se