Marlborough firefighters participate in early cancer detection and prevention program

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Ed Kelly (l) and Mike Matros
Photo/submitted

Marlborough – Two leading organizations in firefighter health and safety, RedLine Gear Cleaning and 15-40 Connection, recently came together for a first-of-its-kind Early Cancer Detection and Prevention Program for firefighters.

RedLine works with first responders to professionally clean and inspect contaminated personal protective equipment and 15-40 Connection is an education and advocacy organization teaching first responders how to detect cancer early and how to be active partners in their healthcare.

At the program’s Nov. 6 session at the Marlborough Fire Department, Ed Kelly, Boston firefighter and general secretary-treasurer of the International Association Firefighters (IAFF), and Mark Buchanan, district chief of Health Safety and Wellness of Boston Fire Department, joined the group.

“When you think about our job and the exposures we have, the likelihood that we are going to have cancer, we all have friends who have died of cancer, every one of them wishes they caught it earlier,” said Kelly.

Cancer is the most dangerous threat to firefighter health. According to IAFF, cancer caused 61 percent of career firefighter line-of-duty deaths between 2002 and 2016. Recent research sponsored by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health found that firefighters have a 9 percent higher risk of developing cancer and a 14 percent greater risk of dying from cancer than civilians.

15-40 Connection presented their “3 Steps Detect” education, which teaches firefighters how to identify early symptoms of cancer, gives a timeframe for action, and empowers them to collaborate with their doctors for best health outcomes.

“When detected early, the survival rate for cancer is much greater than when detected in late stages,” said 15-40 Connection President & Executive Director Tricia Laursen. “Teaching firefighters, who are at risk because of exposure to smoke and chemicals, as well as from their equipment, about symptoms to watch for and how to work with their doctors to get the necessary care and screenings is critical to improving their cancer survival rates.”
The program was sponsored by The Last Call Foundation and also included RedLine on-premise cleaning of the Marlborough firefighters’ gear.

“It is imperative that we continue to make progress with developing and enforcing policies to clean and care for PPE and also that we keep our members clean and decontaminated after every exposure,” said Marlborough Fire Chief Kevin Breen.

Those interested in bringing 15-40 Connection’s life-saving 3 Steps Detect education to their fire department should contact info@15-40.org or 508-826-9442.