Studying Female Firefighters’ Health Risks

Jan. 21, 2021
“I believe this latest study will help women, especially younger women just beginning their careers, to know that they will be safer than ever before,” said Lily Pesqueira, a captain and 20-year veteran of the Tucson Fire Department.

A $1.5 million Health Sciences grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will support research to examine how being a firefighter affects women’s stress levels, as well as their risk of cancer and reproductive health issues.

The study will include work from UArizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health and UArizona Cancer Center members. Among them, Jefferey L. Burgess, MD, MPH, who is a professor and associate dean for research at the college, and Leslie V. Farland, DSc, who is an assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics.

The three-year study will recruit 200 women. Half will be current firefighters and half will be new recruits to enable comparisons of stress levels and other health markers between the two groups.

“More and more women are joining the fire service,” Dr. Burgess said. “It’s imperative for us to understand the occupational risks that may be unique to these women, and how we can help make their jobs safer in the future.”

Previous studies by Dr. Burgess and others sought to find ways to reduce the risk of cancer among firefighters.

One such firefighter, Lily Pesqueira, a captain and 20-year veteran of the Tucson Fire Department, said she is grateful for the focus on female firefighters’ health.