The Firefighter Cancer Support Network says cancer is the most dangerous threat to firefighter health and safety. Data from the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) says cancer caused 66% of firefighter line-of-duty fatalities from 2002 to 2019.
Dr. Kenneth Kunz, a medical oncologist specializing in firefighter cancer research and education, says women make up less than 5% of all Canadian firefighters and they are widely scattered throughout major metropolitan fire departments and small rural volunteer fire halls across Canada. He said cancer rates in female firefighters run much higher than the general population where approximately 45% of Canadian women get cancer and around 30% eventually succumb to it.
Kunz said the global scarcity of female firefighters is the main reason why there’s been little scientific research into the problem of female firefighter cancers. There’s been a lack of attention in media for the same reason, he explained, adding there’ve been a few scientific publications with very small numbers of women, and some magazine articles on cancer in female firefighters, but they are few and far between.
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