UArizona to lead study to reduce risk of cancer in firefighters
PHOENIX — The University of Arizona will soon lead a study to reduce the risk of cancer in firefighters after receiving a $4 million grant, officials said last week.
The funding — granted by the Arizona Board of Regents — will allow researchers to enroll 1,500 firefighters to test if blood or plasma donations lower cancer-causing levels (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS).
The study will be in collaboration with Arizona State University and the Arizona Fire Chiefs Association.
“One of this study’s goals is to decrease PFAS levels in firefighters — which we have found to be higher than in the general population,” Dr. Jeff Burgess, UArizona professor and principal investigator for the project, said in a press release.
“Results from a previous study in Australia are encouraging as PFAS levels decreased through blood and plasma donations. We’re expecting similar results here and we will also be studying whether the reduced levels can also decrease disease risks associated with PFAS — research which has not been done before and which we hope will ultimately save more lives among our fire first responders.”
Fire departments and firefighters across the state will be recruited and included in the study alongside the fire districts and cities involved in the research.
Firefighters are exposed to PFAS through burning household items, contamination from personal protective equipment and firefighter foam, according to ABOR. They also have a 9% higher chance of being diagnosed with cancer and a 14% higher risk of dying from cancer than the general U.S. population, according to the release.
“Firefighters face unimaginable risks to save our loved ones, our homes and our communities and cancer is unfortunately one of those risks,” ABOR Chair Lyndel Manson said in the release.
“This study will help us figure out if there are ways to reduce that risk.”