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Firefighter Research

Breast cancer in the fire service: Beyond pink tees

The data linking firefighting and breast cancer is slim but growing, and this cancer strikes men as well as women

Oct 25, 2016


October is breast cancer awareness month. What does that mean for the fire service beyond pink shirts and pink fire trucks? While breast cancer awareness in the community is important – and a noble effort for firefighters to undertake – the topic should resonate with firefighters beyond just awareness.

It is estimated that one in eight women will get breast cancer in their lifetime. Not surprisingly, data on the relationship between firefighting and breast cancer is relatively slim.

With women making up an estimated 3 to 5 percent of the fire service, collecting data from a representative sample to compare with the general population is a challenge. Small sample sizes of women in any given study make it challenging to find a statistically significant relationship, and most breast cancers occur in women.

What is surprising is that a significant relationship has been noted in the literature – but it was among men. In the general population, less than 1 percent of men get breast cancer.

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