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This study is now closed to enrollment. Please check back soon for any updates.

Purpose of the study

Northwell Health’s Department of Occupational Medicine, Epidemiology and Prevention has partnered with the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY) in a unique opportunity to find out how many members of the volunteer fire service in New York state have developed or died from cancer.

The purpose of the study is to find out whether firefighters’ exposures to known carcinogens lead to higher rates of cancer in volunteer firefighters than the general public. Once completed, the study will enable the medical community to design effective cancer prevention, screening and treatment programs that target the cancers of greatest risk to volunteer firefighters. We need definitive data so that we know how to fight back against cancer for your members.

Study data sources

By law, cancer diagnoses and cause of death are recorded in every state. This information is available to researchers who have proven that they are approved to do a research study that requires this information and that they can protect the confidentiality and privacy of individuals’ identities and health information.

  • The Northwell Health Firefighter Cancer Study team is authorized to submit a list of names and other identifying information for individual volunteer firefighters—active, former or deceased—to the agencies with cancer and death records.
  • These agencies are permitted to report any “matches” of cancer diagnoses and deaths with this list to the study team and won’t do anything further with the list submitted. They do not keep the list, do not contact anyone on the list, and will not use the information for any other purpose.
  • The Northwell Health Firefighter Cancer Study team is not asking for any personal health information, such as cancer diagnosis, from fire departments or firefighters; the only health information obtained will come directly from the following state and federal agencies with cancer and death records:
    • New York State Cancer Registry
    • National Death Index

Partnership with fire departments throughout New York state

Each department’s information is crucial to performing the best possible study for all volunteer firefighters in New York state. Our researchers understand that making the roster of all department members is time-consuming and that releasing any personal information can seem very risky in this day and age, and there is absolutely no room for error when protecting firefighters’ private information. The team is obligated by the Ethical Research Board at Northwell Health and at the New York State Department of Health to ensure the confidentiality and privacy of all data we collect. Our team takes this responsibility extremely seriously and has a strong track record of protecting workers and their data.

The Northwell Health Firefighter Cancer Study team will use every data security precaution available, including:

  • NOT requesting Social Security numbers
  • Never contacting individual firefighters or their families for any reason
  • Using a research data storage system with the highest security protocols (REDCapsee FAQ for further information)
  • Only reporting completely deidentified data (no individual firefighters’ or fire departments’ names will ever appear in any report from the study)
  • Not using or sharing the data for any other purpose

Please consult with your fire district manager or attorney about New York laws governing the release of personnel information that may affect your department.

Field decontamination kits raffle

In recognition of the time and effort needed for participation, fire departments can choose to be entered into a raffle to receive one of multiple field decontamination kits. Your department will be entered into the raffle once the study team receives your data. These kits will contain NIOSH-recommended cleaning items to be used for decontamination after fire calls. Using these kits and other decontamination methods is a first step toward taking action against cancer in the fire service.