One of the most pressing current issues in the fire service is the alarming rise of cancer among firefighters. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health reports that 68 percent of firefighters are expected to develop cancer, over three times the average of the general population (22%).
The fire service is taking every precaution to lower these figures by improving equipment, changing cleaning practices, and adopting best practices. They are also taking equally important steps to effectively screen firefighters for early cancer detection.
CancerDogs is one groundbreaking company that uses highly trained dogs to detect the presence of cancer cells in test samples from firefighters. Dogs are trained to detect the odor that metabolic waste from cancer cells produces in a person’s breath. More than 50 fire departments from across the United States, including Chicago, Dallas, and Chatham, MA, are working with the Gatineau, Quebec-based company to screen their fire service members for over 30 types of cancer. According to CancerDogs, 60 to 70 percent of positive samples detected by the dogs yield positive test results with other methods. The program is still in a trial phase, and has not yet been approved by the government.