The Rutgers School of Public Health received a $1.5 million Federal Emergency Management Agency grant to support cancer research for volunteer firefighters.

The funding will enhance research already being done in collaboration with Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey as part of the Cancer Assessment and Prevention Study. The assessment and prevention study works with fire departments across the state to assess how to understand and prevent exposure to cancer-causing agents in New Jersey firefighters.

"With this Federal Emergency Management Agency funding, the Cancer Assessment and Prevention Study will engage with volunteer firefighters and stakeholders in New Jersey and nationally to address the knowledge gap in cancer causing exposures and risk factors among volunteer firefighters and inform cancer prevention strategies," said the grant’s principal investigator Judith Graber, an associate professor at the Rutgers School of Public Health and associate member of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey.

The collaborative effort will try to better understand cancer risk factors and develop cancer prevention and risk reduction strategies for New Jersey volunteer firefighters.

Cancer – which causes illness, disability and premature death -- is a growing concern among firefighters who are routinely exposed to cancer causing agents in the line of duty.

Volunteer firefighters – who make up over 80 percent of New Jersey’s 37,500 active duty firefighters – experience unique challenges and exposure, however most of the previous research on cancer in firefighters has been conducted among career (paid) firefighters.

The Cancer Assessment and Prevention Study will also provide firefighters with the opportunity to be part of the national Firefighters Cancer Cohort Study, which works with state and national partners to engage volunteer fire departments in research and disseminate their findings.