Cancer incidence amongst UK firefighters

Wolffe, Taylor A. M., Robinson, Andrew, Dickens, Kathryn orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-0925-1538, Turrell, Louis, Clinton, Anna Elizabeth pauline, Maritan-Thomson, Daniella, Joshi, Miland orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-7263-7252 and Stec, Anna A. orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-6861-0468 (2023) Cancer incidence amongst UK firefighters. Scientific Reports, 12 (1). ISSN 2045-2322

[thumbnail of VOR]
PDF (VOR) - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.


Official URL:


Firefighters suffer an increased risk of cancer from exposures to chemicals released from fires. Our earlier research has found that fire toxicants not only remain on firefighters’ PPE, but are also tracked back to fire stations. The UK Firefighter Contamination Survey assesses firefighters’ risk of developing cancer due to occupational exposure to fire toxins. Over 4% of surveyed firefighters were found to have a cancer diagnosis, with the age-specific cancer rate up to 323% higher (35–39 year olds) than that of the general population. Firefighters who had served ≥ 15 years were 1.7 times more likely to develop cancer than those who had served less time. Firefighters were at least twice as likely to be diagnosed with cancer if they noticed soot in their nose/throat (odds ratio (OR) = 2.0, 1.1–3.5), or remained in their PPE for more than four hours after attending a fire incident (OR = 2.3, 1.1–5.2). Also associated with an increased likelihood of cancer was: eating while wearing PPE (OR = 1.8, 1.2–2.7); failing to store clean/dirty PPE separately (OR = 1.3, 1.0–1.7); working in a station that smells of fire (OR = 1.3, 1.0–1.8) or not having designated (separated) clean and dirty areas (OR = 1.4, 1.1–1.7); using an on-site washing machine to launder fire hoods (OR = 1.3, 1.0–1.7); feeling that cleaning is not taken seriously at work (OR = 1.5, 1.2–2.0).

Repository Staff Only: item control page