Utility, Strengths, and Limitations of Cancer Registry Data For Firefighter Cancer Research

Recorded On: 09/09/2020

Research has demonstrated that firefighters are routinely exposed to many known and suspected human carcinogens including brominated flame retardants, PAHs, VOCs, benzene, asbestos and PFAS. While there is strong evidence that firefighters have higher risk for certain types of cancer compared to the general population, many details about cancer risk and risk factors remain poorly understood and subgroups of firefighters; including women, minorities, and volunteers, are understudied.

Evidence for excess risk of cancer comes largely from historical cohort studies with limited exposure information and often lack data on important potential confounding factors, such as smoking and alcohol use. And because the cohorts are identified mainly through employment related records, these studies may be susceptible to downward bias from healthy worker effects. These studies also e exclude the majority of firefighters, who are volunteer not career firefighters.  

The aims of this session are to understand best practices for use of cancer registry data to this field of study, describe data access challenges and approaches, address approaches to improve exposure assessment and minimize impact of healthy worker effects, as well as become familiar with the development of the new National Firefighter Registry that aims to address the above gaps in information on understudied subgroups, such as woman and minorities, as well as volunteer and wildfire firefighters.

Rachel Zeig-Owens, DrPh, MPH

Director of Epidemiology, World Trade Center Health Program at the FDCNY

Dr. Rachel Zeyeg-Owens is the Director of Epidemiology for the World Trade Center Health Program at the Fire Department of the City of New York. She is also a Research Assistant Professor in department of Epidemiology and Population Health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. She received her DrPH from CUNY and her MPH from Columbia.

Ankura Singh, MPH

Epidemiologist, Fire Department of the City of New York

Ankura Singh is an Epidemiologist  with the Fire Department of the City of New York since February 2016  She received her MPH from Boston University.  

Gerald Harris, PhD

Supervising Research Scientist, New Jersey State Cancer Registry

Dr. Gerald Harris is a Supervising Research Scientist at the New Jersey State Cancer Registry. His primary responsibility is to manage the data linkage studies that the Registry performs. He has extensive experience in environmental epidemiology and statistics. He started his career at the Dept. of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory as a statistician. Dr. Harris then worked at the Environmental Epidemiology and Statistics group at the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute. He is now at the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey

David Lee, PhD

Project Director, Florida Cancer Data System

Dr. David Lee is a chronic disease epidemiologist with long standing research interests in the areas of occupational health, tobacco and cancer control.  He is currently the Project Director of the Florida Cancer Data System and is Principal Investigator of the data linkage study under the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Firefighters Cancer Initiative at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

Miriam Siegel

Lead Epidemiologist, National Firefighter Registry, NIOSH

Dr. Miriam Siegel, DrPH, MPH, is Lead Epidemiologist for the National Firefighter Registry at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). She completed her doctorate in occupational epidemiology at the University of Kentucky in 2016. Dr. Siegel joined NIOSH in 2017 as an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer where she worked on a range of research topics related to occupational reproductive health, workplace violence, firefighter fatality surveillance, and wildland firefighter safety and health. She now works as part of a team developing a national registry of firefighters to evaluate cancer incidence and risk factors within the U.S. fire service.