NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month and we are talking about how first responders are being impacted by the disease.
First responders have a higher risk of developing skin cancer than the general population. According to a 2017 study, firefighters were also found to be diagnosed with melanoma at younger ages.
“Our first responders protect us every day and there are hazards that they face each and every day and cancer is one of those occupational hazards that many first responders aren’t aware of, let alone the general public,” said P.J. Norwood, director of training at the Connecticut Fire Academy.
Norwood said most of the time, it is left up to individual municipalities to take care of their members. However, he is partnered with Mollie’s Fund to try to educate firefighters as they come through the academy.
Mollie Biggane was a 20-year-old woman who passed away in 2000. Her parents started the Mollie Fund because she passed away from skin cancer and Melanoma. She found a small mole on her thigh when she was just 16.
Through this partnership, they can educate roughly 7,000 firefighters per year on occupational hazards and skin cancer and try to prevent and reduce their risk.
The Connecticut Fire Academy trains the fire service of Connecticut, from entry-level firefighters to chief officers. Norwood said recruitment is a problem in Connecticut and nationally.
He likes to say there is a job for everyone.
“You know, not every individual out there is meant to strap on an air tank and personal protective equipment and go through a front door of a burning building,” Norwood said. “But there are a lot of other jobs on the fire ground that we can use you for.”
Norwood said the best thing about being a firefighter is “giving back to the community and seeing the reward of saving people’s lives.”