The San Francisco Fire Department has more women than any other department in the United States, with about 16 percent of its firefighters being female.
They are being diagnosed with breast cancer at an alarming rate. Fifteen percent of their female firefighters between the ages of 40 and 50 years old have been diagnosed with the disease. That is six times the national average.
"Cancer is a concern for the San Francisco Fire Department as well as the fire service nationwide. But in San Francisco, we have seen and we do have numbers of elevated cancer rates for male and female firefighters," said Jeanine Nicholson, deputy chief of administration for the San Francisco Fire Department.
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Over the last decade, more than 250 of the department's active and retired firefighters — both men and women — have died from various forms of cancer.
Researchers believe the cause for the increase in cancers in firefighters has to do with the increase in synthetic materials in homes and the dangerous fumes that they're exposed to as a result.