Women Fire Fighters Study:

Stress, Cancer Risk and Reproductive Toxicity 

A FEMA-Funded Research Project 

Page created: Monday, November 9, 2020 | Last Updated: Monday,  November 9, 2020

Overview of the Women Fire Fighters Study:


Women firefighters have high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), cancer, and adverse reproductive outcomes. However, insufficient information on the causes of and mechanisms leading to these occupationally related illnesses prevent the creation of effective interventions. Stress has been associated with PTSD, epigenetic changes (an integral mechanism in cancer development), cancer, and adverse reproductive outcomes. Exposure to inhaled toxicants and stress can cause premature ovarian failure (early menopause), associated with reduced serum levels of anti-müllerian hormone (AMH).

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Project Goal: 

The goal of this study is to evaluate causes of stress, cancer, and adverse reproductive health effects in women firefighters, and plan effective interventions to mitigate these conditions. 

Project Specific Aims: 

  1. Compare stress and biomarkers of cancer risk and reproductive health in incumbent and new recruit women firefighters; 

  2. Evaluate changes in these conditions over time in an inception cohort of women new recruits; and

  3. Develop, beta test, and assess the feasibility of a peer support intervention for women firefighters.

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Study Timeline: 

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Anticipated Impact: 

Through the course of this study, research activities and results are expected to identify exposures and risk factors for increased stress, cancer, and reduced ovarian reserve in women firefighters to inform future intervention studies.  In addition, the Women's Firefighter Study will develop a peer support intervention to decrease stress and be suitable for a future larger-scale intervention study.

Women Fire Fighther Study Team:

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Dr. Jeff Burgess
University of Arizona
Project Co-PI 
Dr. Sara Jahnke
Center for Fire, Rescue & EMS Health Research
Project Co-PI 
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Dr. Brittany Hollerbach
Center for Fire, Rescue & EMS Health Research
Postdoctoral Fellow
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Paola Louzado Feliciano 
University of Miami
Research Associate / Project Co-Leader
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Dr. Alberto Caban-Martinez
University of Miami
Co-Investigator / DCC Director
Katerina Santiago
University of Miami
Central IRB Analyst /
Regulatory Affairs
Shawn Beitel
University of Arizona
Research Specialist / Project Co-Leader
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Sally Littau
University of Arizona
Biomarker Lab Coordinator