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Mesothelioma Risk in Canadian Firefighters and Police

Mesothelioma Risk in Canadian Firefighters and PoliceFirefighters and police usually work in high-stress, complex environments. And, these environments often have known and suspected hazardous and toxic exposures.

A leading cause of mesothelioma is asbestos exposure. Asbestos is toxic and cancer-causing for human beings. Asbestos causes mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.

Canadian researchers published a new study in Occupational and Environmental Medicine. This new report characterizes cancer incidence among these occupations.

Firefighters vs. Police

The Canadian team used an Occupational Disease Surveillance System (ODSS) to identify workers. Then they compared compensation claims to the Ontario Cancer Registry.

They found 36,267 people employed as firefighters or police in Ontario. In the final analysis, there were a total of 13,642 firefighters and 22,595 police. When compared with other workers, these two occupations had an increased cancer risk.

When compared directly with the police, firefighters had an elevated risk of mesothelioma.

Policy Changes are Needed

Findings from this large population may have important consequences. Workplace and policy-level changes are needed to improve precautionary measures. Changes are needed to reduce potential exposures to known toxic hazards.

Firefighters and the police are recognized as high-risk occupations. Many existing clinical studies have shown the risk of cancer among firefighters. But there are fewer studies on the risk of cancer among the police. Scientific evidence remains inconsistent for both.

This new study provides findings on a large worker cohort. It identifies an increased risk of cancers among these occupations. It supports previous studies and provides evidence of increased cancer risk. Both have an increased risk of cancer. And, firefighters have an increased risk of mesothelioma.

Policymakers need to understand the risk of cancer and related exposures. It may help them to determine appropriate precautionary measures for firefighters and police.


Sritharan, Jeavana, Tracy L. Kirkham, Jill MacLeod, Niki Marjerrison, Ashley Lau, Mamadou Dakouo, Chloë Logar-Henderson, Tenzin Norzin, Nathan L. DeBono, and Paul A. Demers. “Cancer risk among firefighters and police in the Ontario workforce.” Occupational and Environmental Medicine (2022). http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/oemed-2021-108146


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