Progress for Firefighter Cancer Registry Bill

Reducing the Risk of Cancer Among our Nation’s Heroes

The Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, of which U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) is a member, this week advanced the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act, legislation cosponsored by Murkowski which creates a national cancer registry for firefighters diagnosed with the deadly disease in order to collect data and improve research activities on incidents of cancer among firefighters.

“The stark reality we have seen firsthand in Alaska is that firefighters are diagnosed with cancers directly linked to exposure on the job. I am reminded of Anchorage firefighter Andy Mullen, who in 1997, responded to a routine call—a brush fire. Thirteen years later, Andy was diagnosed with cancer caused by exposure to toxins from electrical wires from that brush fire, and eventually lost his life,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski. “Firefighters are regularly exposed to harmful toxins and it is increasing their risk for several major cancers. This legislation takes an important step towards addressing cancer rates among firefighters—brave men and women who put everything on the line for our safety. This is a data-driven approach to determining the best possible response to the increased risk of cancer among our nation’s heroes.”

“The Alaska Professional Fire Fighters are grateful for the work Senator Murkowski and the entire HELP Committee has dedicated to the Firefighter Cancer Registry Bill. From our first meeting on this topic, Senator Murkowski has supported and advocated for this important piece of legislation.   Cancer is just one more deadly danger that those working in the fire service face and unfortunately Alaska is all too familiar with it,” Tom Wescott, President of the Alaska Professional Firefighters said, “Gathering the data, studying it and working to reduce cancer in the fire service will save lives. Senator Murkowski and the entire HELP Committee have moved us closer to doing just that.  

“The Cancer Registry Bill requires the Secretary of HHS through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to develop and maintain a voluntary registry to monitor cancer incidents among firefighters,” said Chief Mitch Flynn of Steese Volunteer Fire Department in Fairbanks. “The bill would provide a way to gather information from firefighters, both paid and volunteer, who have cancer and the type of cancer contracted. This bill would also provide a link to existing state cancer registries to aid in cancer research.”

“It has been known for years that firefighters have an increased rate of several different cancers. Unfortunately there has been no single clearing house for data to find the common threads to link these cases together at a national level. Having this national clearing house will be a huge component in finding ways to reduce risk and prevent cancer in our emergency responders,” said Chief Rich Etheridge of Capital City Fire Rescue in Juneau. “Creating a national clearing house for cancer data for firefighters could be one of the single largest steps we can take to reduce the risk of cancer in our emergency responders.”