Do Firefighters and Police Officers in the State of Ohio Have a Higher Incidence of Certain Cancer Types Compared to the General Population?

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The Ohio State University

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Firefighters and police officers are exposed on a daily basis to several carcinogens and chemicals that can lead to multiple occupational hazards, which increases their risk of cancer. Studies have shown that firefighters are nine percent more likely to get cancer and they have a fourteen percent elevated risk for cancer mortality compared to the general population. Likewise, police officers who served thirty years in Buffalo, New York were shown to have a higher risk for brain cancer and Hodgkin's lymphoma compared to individuals in the tumor registry. However, there is very limited research on cancer incidence in the state of Ohio. The goal of this study is to provide descriptive data about cancer incidence among firefighters and police in Ohio as a first step towards determining whether there is a connection between their occupation and cancer risk. These data were obtained from the Ohio Department of Health's (ODH) Ohio Cancer Incidence Surveillance System (OCISS). In our study, about 1.49 million cancer cases occurred in the state of Ohio from 1996 to 2017 and were analyzed in four separate CSV files. After determining the coding for firefighters and police officers, SAS Studio, RStudio, and ArcGIS Pro were used to determine the demographics and cancer types. There were 2036 firefighters and 3906 police officers in the state of Ohio with some type of cancer. Firefighters and police officers both had a higher incidence of prostate cancer compared to the general population. Furthermore, both occupations had a high incidence of lung and bronchus cancer, colon cancer, and melanoma. The general population had similar results for all other cancer types with the exception of breast cancer, which was higher in the general population than in firefighters and police. The highest incidence of cancer occurred in Cuyahoga County for all three populations. Potential exposure to several carcinogens such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), benzene, and toluene could have increased the risk of cancer among firefighters and police officers. In addition, the constant stress that firefighters and police officers undergo daily causes excess cytokine release. As a result, immunity is decreased which leads to cancer. The implementation of smoking cessation and nutrition programs as well as further education on using personal protective equipment effectively should be implemented to reduce the burden of disease. Further research should also be done to explore the possibilities of other physical, biological, and chemical agents that increase the risk of cancer among firefighters and police officers.



Cancer, Firefighters, Police Officers, Ohio