February is “Cancer Prevention Month” and February 4th is World Cancer Day. Both are designed to bring awareness to the cancer epidemic. Firefighters are particularly prone to cancer. They have 9% greater chance of being diagnosed with cancer and a 14% greater chance of dying from cancer. While these statistics may be startling, and frankly a bit scary, there are things YOU as an individual can do to reduce your risk, even if your department has not implemented a decontamination protocol.
Besides using Responder Wipes to decontaminate while still on scene, make sure you “shower within the hour” to remove any remaining contaminants before they are absorbed into the skin. Do not use tobacco products, but do use sunscreen. Have a spare hood available, and wash your hood regularly. Don’t forget to wipe out the inside of your helmet and clean your boots. Make sure you get an annual physical, and when you visit your doctor, take a copy of “Your Patient is a Firefighter.” This document provides guidance to healthcare providers about the unique health concerns for firefighters.
While you as a firefighter may accept the inherent risks that come with your profession, there is no reason you should not do all within your power to minimize them. Do it for yourself, for your family, for your crew. Remove the risk!