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Firefighter Foam & Skin Cancer: Is There a Link?


Inhaling toxic chemicals hurts the body. The aftereffects can vary, from allergic reactions on the skin to life-threatening ailments like cancer. As a result, firefighters at work are always at risk of developing any debilitating ailment because of AFFF exposure, the foam they use to extinguish dangerous fires.

Firefighter foam, or AFFF (Aqueous Film Forming Foam), is considered detrimental to human health because it has PFAS, also called ‘forever chemicals.’ As the name suggests, the chemical doesn’t get dissolved but stays in the human body and environment, causing harm to both.

Firefighters are exposed to this toxic foam during their entire work tenure, which makes them suffer from chronic health conditions. The health hazards include kidney cancer, prostate cancer, thyroid problems, ulcerative colitis, and many more. In recent times, AFFF exposure has also been linked with skin cancer. This article will shed light on this correlation and how to seek compensation.

Can AFFF Exposure Cause Skin Cancer? once reported about Gilbert Gonzalez, a Texas firefighter, and his experience with AFFF. His exposure to this foam made him suffer from skin cancer, for which he filed a product liability lawsuit. The complaint mentioned that he was exposed to this foam while extinguishing actual fires and even during training sessions.

His lawsuit includes claims against safety equipment and chemical manufacturers as defendants. It comprised names like Kidde, 3M Company, Du Pont, Buckeye Fire Equipment Company, Chemguard, Inc., and Chubb Fire, Ltd.

Gilbert isn’t the only one who has suffered from AFFF exposure. Many have suffered from skin cancer because of this foam working in the naval forces as well. It is also necessary for them to file an AFFF lawsuit for Navy concerns and seek the compensation that they deserve.

A Few Important Studies

Skin cancer occurs when external factors, such as exposure to ultraviolet light, change the growth of skin cells. The symptoms are patches or bumps in the skin. If detected early, most skin cancers can be treated successfully. A few treatments include radiation, chemotherapy, cryotherapy, and Mohs surgery.


Most studies have established the fact that AFFF exposure causes lung cancer and mesothelioma in most firefighters. It was only recently that the link with skin cancer was discovered. The first study was done by JAMA Dermatology on 2400 firefighters in South Florida and found that close to 7% had been diagnosed with melanoma. There were another 3.5% who suffered from non-melanoma cancers.

The study revealed firefighters had melanoma at a younger age. The average age for most was 42, and some were 64 years old. Recently, in 2023, the JAAD review of five studies highlighted the risk of melanoma in firefighters. Four studies established that there was an increased risk of skin cancer in firefighters compared to other professions.

On the other hand, the fifth study revealed an increasing risk of skin cancer in older firefighters between the age groups of 55 and 74 compared to police officers. There was just one study that involved a woman firefighter who suffered from skin cancer.

The authors of the study mentioned that firefighters are at risk of getting exposed to carcinogenic combustion byproducts. It comprises polychlorinated biphenyls, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, metals, and benzene, which leads to a high cancer risk. To point towards the risk of melanoma, there is a need for further studies that will establish the correlation strongly.

How To Seek Legal Compensation?

Even though it is treatable, skin cancer requires its own treatment. It will come at a cost. For this, it is necessary to contact a lawyer who can help you obtain the fair compensation you deserve. You can use this amount to cover your medical costs and other expenses that you have to incur as part of your treatment.


TruLaw states that speaking with a lawyer is the first thing to do when you are diagnosed with skin cancer because of AFFF exposure. They can study your case and let you know whether you qualify to file a lawsuit. After that, they will guide you in collecting and using the right evidence to develop a compelling case. A lawyer will also inform you about the probable settlement payout so you have practical expectations.

In conclusion, firefighters over the years have suffered from varied diseases, from leukemia to pancreatic cancer, because of AFFF exposure. Skin cancer is another health hazard that has been added to the list. Hence, if you suffered from this because of PFAS exposure, you should seek both medical and legal aid.