Cancer risk among career male and female Florida firefighters: Evidence from the Florida Firefighter Cancer Registry (1981-2014)

David J. Lee, Tulay Koru-Sengul, Monique N. Hernandez, Alberto J. Caban-Martinez, Laura A. McClure, Jill A. Mackinnon, Erin N. Kobetz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background: Firefighters are at increased risk for select cancers. However, many studies are limited by relatively small samples, with virtually no data on the cancer experience of female firefighters. This study examines cancer risk in over 100,000 career Florida firefighters including 5000 + females assessed over a 34-year period. Methods: Florida firefighter employment records (n = 109 009) were linked with Florida Cancer Data System registry data (1981-2014; ~3.3 million records), identifying 3760 male and 168 female-linked primary cancers. Gender-specific age and calendar year-adjusted odds ratios (aOR) and 95% confidence intervals for firefighters vs non-firefighters were calculated. Results: Male firefighters were at increased risk of melanoma (aOR = 1.56; 1.39-1.76), prostate (1.36; 1.27-1.46), testicular (1.66; 1.34-2.06), thyroid (2.17; 1.78-2.66) and late-stage colon cancer (1.19;1.00-1.41). Female firefighters showed significantly elevated risk of brain (2.54; 1.19-5.42) and thyroid (2.42; 1.56-3.74) cancers and an elevated risk of melanoma that approached statistical significance (1.68; 0.97-2.90). Among male firefighters there was additional evidence of increased cancer risk younger than the age of 50 vs 50 years and older for thyroid (2.55; 1.96-3.31 vs 1.69; 1.22-2.34), prostate (1.88; 1.49-2.36 vs 1.36; 1.26-1.47), testicular (1.60; 1.28-2.01 vs 1.47; 0.73-2.94), and melanoma (1.87; 1.55-2.26 vs 1.42; 1.22-1.66) cancers. Conclusion: Male career firefighters in Florida are at increased risk for five cancers with typically stronger associations in those diagnosed younger than the age of 50, while there was evidence for increased thyroid and brain cancer, and possibly melanoma risk in female firefighters. Larger cohorts with adequate female representation, along with the collection of well-characterized exposure histories, are needed to more precisely examine cancer risk in this occupational group.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)285-299
Number of pages15
JournalAmerican Journal of Industrial Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020


  • Florida
  • cancer registry
  • cancer risk
  • firefighters
  • occupation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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