Thyroid Cancer in Las Vegas Firefighters

Technical BulletinLast updated Wednesday, July 1, 2009
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An ultrasound scan of the throat was recently added to Las Vegas Fire and Rescue's (LVFR's) mandatory annual physical examination. The intent was to help document early artery disease, but the "neck scans" identified an unexpected problem as well; 30-40 individuals exhibited abnormal thyroid glands. Further testing diagnosed nine cases of malignant papillary thyroid cancer, or a rate of 1 in 77, within the department. The purpose of this applied research project was to determine the significance of LVFR's thyroid cancer rate by identifying the specific disease characteristics and comparing it with the documented rates of other similar populations.The descriptive research method was used to define thyroid cancer and its potential risk factors, identify the nature of the thyroid cancer at LVFR, find other populations for which thyroid cancer rates are being charted and compare them with LVFR's rate, and outline the disease's impacts to the department. An anonymous survey was developed to define the frequency and nature of LVFR's cancer rates while protecting the privacy of the participants, and a follow-up interview with the staff physician was used to clarify certain responses to the survey. Though many personnel chose not to respond to the survey, it was discovered that all nine of the afflicted LVFR firefighters have the same type of thyroid cancer and that none of these cases can be positively correlated to any of the commonly known risk factors or exposures.The researcher recommended expanded screening of other local fire department personnel and civilian employees in order to discover the extent of the population which may be affected. A partnership with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, might then be developed in order to conduct a full-scale scientific study of thyroid cancer incidence in Southern Nevada.

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