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Rutgers School of Public Health receives grant to support volunteer firefighter cancer research

The Rutgers School of Public Health is collaborating with the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey to better understand the cancer risks posed to volunteer firefighters, as well as developing cancer prevention and risk reduction strategies. – Photo by

The Rutgers School of Public Health has received a $1.5 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to aid in volunteer firefighter cancer research, according to a press release.

The Cancer Assessment and Prevention Study, in partnership with the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, looks to better understand cancer risk factors among this group, according to the release. With this, it plans to develop cancer prevention and risk reduction strategies for firefighters throughout the state, focusing more heavily on volunteer firefighters.

Firefighters are routinely exposed to cancer-causing agents, resulting in a growing concern among this population, according to the release. While volunteer firefighters make up more than 80 percent of the state’s active-duty firefighters, previous cancer research has mostly related to career firefighters.

Researchers involved in this study collaborate with fire departments across the state to assess how the exposures for volunteer firefighters match, as well as contrast, those of career firefighters, according to the release. Additionally, the study involves exploring barriers to post-fire decontamination among volunteer firefighters.

Firefighters are also given the chance to participate in the national Fire Fighters Cancer Cohort Study, which also looks at studying cancer and cancer risks among firefighters, as well as partnering with state and national entities to involve volunteer fire departments in their research, according to the release.

“With this (FEMA) funding, the Cancer Assessment and Prevention Study will engage with volunteer firefighters and stakeholders in New Jersey and nationally to address the knowledge gap in cancer-causing exposures and risk factors among volunteer firefighters and inform cancer prevention strategies,” said Judith Graber, an associate professor at the Rutgers School of Public Health, an associate member of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at the Cancer Institute and the grant’s principal investigator, according to the release.

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