New Research Reveals Firefighters’ Job Exposes Them to Chemicals Linked to Prostate Cancer Risk

We are all aware of the risks firefighters face when they battle fires. Several dangers are associated with putting out a fire, including burns, explosions, structural collapses, and injuries during rescue operations for both people and pets. We honor firefighters for their unwavering courage and commitment as they fight to save homes and buildings on fire and rescue any occupants trapped in blazing structures.

Firefighters’ Job Exposes Them to Chemicals Linked to Prostate Cancer Risk

Firefighters also encounter a multitude of chemicals in their line of duty, and recent research sheds light on how these exposures might heighten the risk of prostate cancer. Unlike many other professions in the United States, where safety measures over the past four decades have lowered exposure to harmful substances, firefighters still face significant exposure to cancer-causing agents in smoke. This exposure persists because firefighting tasks, such as extinguishing fires and clearing debris, happen in unpredictable and dangerous settings. Additionally, modern smoke contains a broader variety of toxic chemicals because of the prevalence of synthetic materials in homes and workplaces. Firefighters are exposed to various carcinogens such as asbestos, benzene, flame retardants, formaldehyde, polychlorinated biphenyls, PAHs, and per- and polyfluoroalkyl chemicals during their duty.

Data USA shows that in 2021, 95.6% of firefighters in the United States were men, with an average age of 38. 

New research, published in Environmental and Molecular Mutagenesis and conducted by the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health and the University of Michigan, in collaboration with fire service partners nationwide through the Fire Fighter Cancer Cohort Study, reveals a concerning association between firefighting and prostate cancer risk.

Prostate cancer is the top cancer in men in the US. and firefighters face a 1.21 times higher diagnosis rate compared to the general population. This elevated risk is attributed to occupational exposures, encompassing smoke inhalation and contact with firefighting foam, among other chemicals.

A pivotal aspect of this research lies in understanding how these chemicals influence gene expression through epigenetic modifications, particularly DNA methylation, which is implicated in cancer development. The study indicates notable differences in epigenetic modifications between seasoned firefighters and newcomers, specifically in regions associated with prostate cancer.

One category of chemicals implicated in these modifications is per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are prevalent in firefighting foam and everyday items like nonstick cookware and waterproof clothing. The investigation further explores the connection between PFAS exposure and epigenetic alterations.

While the study reveals similar PFAS exposure levels among new and experienced firefighters in many departments, a specific compound, branched perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), emerges as significantly linked to epigenetic modifications. These findings underscore the nuanced relationship between chemical exposure and prostate cancer risk among firefighters.

This study emphasizes the urgent necessity of tackling the workplace dangers firefighters face, as highlighted by the Fire Fighter Cancer Cohort Study. By combining data from various grants, including those provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, this research underscores the immediate need to assess and reduce health risks within the firefighting profession.


Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy.  Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911. 



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