Cancer among fire fighters a growing concern

Cancer among fire fighters a growing...

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - They run to the places we would typically run away from.

Putting themselves in the most dangerous places, for fire fighters it's all part of the job.

But it doesn't end there.

What happens after they fight fires, can be considered the scariest part of the job.

According to the International Association of Fire Fighters, cancer caused 61 percent of deaths among full time fire fighters from 2002 to 2016.

The IAFF reports fire fighters have a nine percent higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer than the general U.S. population.

"You know you went to a fire and your biggest hazard was just the fire, now it's not," said Captain Blane Neher with the La Crosse Fire Department.

Research shows fire fighters have a higher risk of developing cancer compared to the general American population.

This in part has to do with exposure to carcinogens, which are formed by burned plastics and synthetics found in households.

"Fire fighters when they go inside they're getting saturated with their gases," Neher said.

How they clean these cancer forming gases off of their bodies and gear, is one the most crucial ways to help reduce the risk of cancer.

This also includes having more than one set of gear for each firefighter, and more than one specialized washer in the department.

Which Blane says the department doesn't have.

"Right now this department only provides one set of turn out gear to our firefighters, it is recommended that each fire fighter throughout the nation has two sets of gear so you're not recontaminating yourself with those toxins after a fire."

Gundersen Oncologist Roger Kwong says he hasn't seen an unusual number of fire fighters with cancer compared to other occupations.

But it's necessary for fire fighters to be cautious.

"Be healthy, avoid tobacco use, get your cancer screenings and use your protective equipment that you are issued."

Blane says working out vigorously for 24 hours after fighting a fire is also recommended to help get rid of the toxins absorbed in the skin.

Doctors with Gundersen say it's important to keep in mind there are certain things that are factored in when it comes to cancer, including genetics.

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