Feature

CDC registry aims to shed light on cancer risk among firefighters

Kenny Fent, PhD
Kenny Fent, PhD

The CDC plans to launch a new registry that could help researchers better understand occupational cancer risk among firefighters.

Additionally, the National Firefighter Registry would be used to raise awareness about ways to better protect firefighters from known cancer risks. Studies have shown firefighters face increased risk for certain cancers, including digestive, lung, throat and urinary cancer.

The CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is currently seeking input on approaches to maximize firefighter participation and coordination of data collection for the registry.

“We look forward to receiving this formal input from our partners in the fire service on how we can ensure that they are engaged in this process as we move forward. Their contributions will be important to the overall success of this registry,” Kenny Fent, PhD, head of the National Firefighter Registry Program, said in a press release.

HemOnc Today spoke with Fent about the registry, who can be involved and how they can get involved, and the value for firefighters and for research.

Question: What prompted the creation of this registry?

Answer: We have evidence that firefighters are at increased risk for cancer. However, previous studies do not contain sufficient information on female firefighters and/or other minorities to make conclusions on these specific populations — most research does not even include volunteer firefighters. The motivation behind this registry was to address some of the knowledge gaps regarding cancer risk among these other groups, but we want to better understand cancer risk for all firefighters in the United States.

"This will be one of the largest occupational health cohorts and we can learn a lot about cancer in general, because this is such a unique population," Fent told HemOnc Today.
Source: Adobe Stock

Q: Who can be involved and how can they get involved?

A: The National Firefighter Registry is for all firefighters, regardless of cancer status. We want all U.S. firefighters to consider registering once we go live in about a year. We are aiming for 200,000 firefighters to be included in this registry.
Our three approaches to enrolling firefighters include:

  • convenience sampling, for which we will develop a secure web portal to allow current and former volunteer, paid-on-call, and career firefighters to provide information to the registry;
  • organizations-level probability sampling, for which we will consult with firefighter organizations to identify current and former members who worked during a specified time frame for the purposes of direct solicitation; and
  • fire department-level probability sampling, for which we will obtain a list of fire departments from the U.S. Fire Administration’s National Fire Department Registry and other sources to request identification of current and former firefighters who worked during a specified time frame.

Q: What do you and colleagues hope the registry will do for U.S. firefighters?

A: This is a scientific endeavor. We are trying to better understand the cancer risk for all firefighters and factors associated with increased or decreased cancer risk. This is valuable information for municipalities that are trying to protect their firefighters. We also hope to raise awareness of the general cancer issue in the fire service.

Q: What is next?

A: We are currently in the planning stages, so it will probably be at least a year or more before we start registering firefighters. We are reaching out to stakeholders for input on our design of the registry, and to various professional organizations and other groups that represent firefighters as well as fire departments. Once we gather this input, we will officially design the registry and identify the best way to enroll firefighters, which we think will be online. We will then have a targeted promotional campaign, go live with the registry and begin enrollment. After that, we will have much more work to do in terms of matching firefighters to state cancer registries, publishing findings and disseminating results to the fire service.

Q: Is there anything else that you would like to mention?

A: This is a very exciting project, not just for firefighters, but for occupational health research. This will be one of the largest occupational health cohorts and we can learn a lot about cancer in general, because this is such a unique population. There is a lot of value here for science and public health in general.– by Jennifer Southall

Reference:

NIOSH firefighter resources. Available at: www.cdc.gov/niosh/firefighters/health.html. Accessed May 15, 2019.

For more information:

Kenny Fent, PhD, can be reached at National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 1090 Tusculum Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45226; email: kfent@cdc.gov.

Disclosure: Fent reports no relevant financial disclosures.

 

Kenny Fent, PhD
Kenny Fent, PhD

The CDC plans to launch a new registry that could help researchers better understand occupational cancer risk among firefighters.

Additionally, the National Firefighter Registry would be used to raise awareness about ways to better protect firefighters from known cancer risks. Studies have shown firefighters face increased risk for certain cancers, including digestive, lung, throat and urinary cancer.

The CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is currently seeking input on approaches to maximize firefighter participation and coordination of data collection for the registry.

“We look forward to receiving this formal input from our partners in the fire service on how we can ensure that they are engaged in this process as we move forward. Their contributions will be important to the overall success of this registry,” Kenny Fent, PhD, head of the National Firefighter Registry Program, said in a press release.

HemOnc Today spoke with Fent about the registry, who can be involved and how they can get involved, and the value for firefighters and for research.

Question: What prompted the creation of this registry?

Answer: We have evidence that firefighters are at increased risk for cancer. However, previous studies do not contain sufficient information on female firefighters and/or other minorities to make conclusions on these specific populations — most research does not even include volunteer firefighters. The motivation behind this registry was to address some of the knowledge gaps regarding cancer risk among these other groups, but we want to better understand cancer risk for all firefighters in the United States.

"This will be one of the largest occupational health cohorts and we can learn a lot about cancer in general, because this is such a unique population," Fent told HemOnc Today.
Source: Adobe Stock

Q: Who can be involved and how can they get involved?

A: The National Firefighter Registry is for all firefighters, regardless of cancer status. We want all U.S. firefighters to consider registering once we go live in about a year. We are aiming for 200,000 firefighters to be included in this registry.
Our three approaches to enrolling firefighters include:

  • convenience sampling, for which we will develop a secure web portal to allow current and former volunteer, paid-on-call, and career firefighters to provide information to the registry;
  • organizations-level probability sampling, for which we will consult with firefighter organizations to identify current and former members who worked during a specified time frame for the purposes of direct solicitation; and
  • fire department-level probability sampling, for which we will obtain a list of fire departments from the U.S. Fire Administration’s National Fire Department Registry and other sources to request identification of current and former firefighters who worked during a specified time frame.
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Q: What do you and colleagues hope the registry will do for U.S. firefighters?

A: This is a scientific endeavor. We are trying to better understand the cancer risk for all firefighters and factors associated with increased or decreased cancer risk. This is valuable information for municipalities that are trying to protect their firefighters. We also hope to raise awareness of the general cancer issue in the fire service.

Q: What is next?

A: We are currently in the planning stages, so it will probably be at least a year or more before we start registering firefighters. We are reaching out to stakeholders for input on our design of the registry, and to various professional organizations and other groups that represent firefighters as well as fire departments. Once we gather this input, we will officially design the registry and identify the best way to enroll firefighters, which we think will be online. We will then have a targeted promotional campaign, go live with the registry and begin enrollment. After that, we will have much more work to do in terms of matching firefighters to state cancer registries, publishing findings and disseminating results to the fire service.

Q: Is there anything else that you would like to mention?

A: This is a very exciting project, not just for firefighters, but for occupational health research. This will be one of the largest occupational health cohorts and we can learn a lot about cancer in general, because this is such a unique population. There is a lot of value here for science and public health in general.– by Jennifer Southall

Reference:

NIOSH firefighter resources. Available at: www.cdc.gov/niosh/firefighters/health.html. Accessed May 15, 2019.

For more information:

Kenny Fent, PhD, can be reached at National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 1090 Tusculum Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45226; email: kfent@cdc.gov.

Disclosure: Fent reports no relevant financial disclosures.