Milham S. Most cancer in firefighters is due to radio-frequency radiation exposure not inhaled carcinogens. Med Hypotheses. Ahead of print May 21, 2009.


A system is in place to monitor the occupational information on the Washington State death record.  Occupational mortality data since 1950 is now available online.  The first analysis of the data, published in 1976 and covering deaths between 1950 and 1971, showed that Washington State firefighters had increased mortality due to brain cancer, malignant melanoma, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  These cancers don’t have an intuitive connection to inhaled carcinogens to which firefighters would likely have been exposed.

The author hypothesizes that occupational exposure to radiofrequency radiation (RFR) causes some cancers among firefighters.  The author provides arguments to support this hypothesis.

Cancer and Carcinogenic Exposures in Firefighters:  Firefighters have been shown to be at increased risk of developing a number of cancers.  They are also exposed to numerous carcinogens in combustion products, including asbestos, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, benzene, lead, and aromatic amines.  The major route of exposure to these carcinogens is by inhalation.  However, respiratory cancers are not more common in firefighters.

RFR Exposure and Cancer:  Exposure to RFR has been linked with malignant melanoma, leukemia, thyroid, uterine and testicular cancer, as well as other lymphatic cancers.  Firefighters are exposed to RF from transmitters located in the firehouse, from radio systems in vehicles and from personal transceivers.

Interpretation and Limitations
The Washington State occupational mortality data set showed that brain cancer and malignant melanoma are in excess among firefighters.  This suggests that occupational exposure to RFR may be a cause.  The most difficult part of evaluating this hypothesis will be characterizing past RFR exposures.

The author concludes that the precautionary principle should be adopted to minimize RFR exposure in firefighters.

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