Cancer morbidity of professional emergency responders in Korea

Am J Ind Med. 2012 Sep;55(9):768-78. doi: 10.1002/ajim.22068. Epub 2012 May 24.


Background: Many professional emergency responders (ERs) who belong to the Korean National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) have been cross-trained and serve multiple roles. As such, firefighters and other ERs in Korea are exposed to similar occupational hazards. This study was conducted to estimate cancer morbidity in male ERs and compare that with Korean men.

Methods: The cohort was comprised of 33,416 male ERs working between 1980 and 2007, who were alive on December 31, 1995. Work histories were merged with the Korea National Central Cancer Registry (KNCCR) to assess cancer morbidity between 1996 and 2007. Standardized incidence ratios (SIRs) with reference to Korean men were analyzed.

Results: SIRs with reference to national cancer rates were not significantly decreased for overall cancer (SIR = 0.97, 95% CI = 0.90-1.08) in all ERs. However, colorectal (SIR = 1.35, 95% CI = 1.07-1.67), kidney (SIR = 1.59, 95% CI = 1.00-2.41), and bladder (SIR = 1.77, 95% CI = 1.08-2.73) cancer, and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (SIR = 1.81, 95% CI = 1.12-2.76) morbidities were significantly increased among all ERs. In firefighters, significantly increased cancer types were as same as those of all ERs. In non-firefighter ERs, colorectal (SIR = 2.51, 95% CI = 1.20-4.61) and bone and articular cartilage cancers (SIR = 9.53, 95% CI = 1.07-34.41) were significantly higher than those of Korean men.

Conclusions: Korean firefighters showed excess morbidity in several cancer types, including colorectal and urologic cancers, and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, demonstrating similar trends to previous studies for firefighters conducted in other countries. Increased incidence in these cancer types suggests occupational exposure to carcinogens and shift work.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Carcinogens, Environmental / adverse effects
  • Emergency Responders*
  • Firefighters
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology*
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Registries
  • Republic of Korea / epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Work Schedule Tolerance


  • Carcinogens, Environmental