New bill would help firefighters diagnosed with cancer in a major way

WATCH: New bill would help firefighters diagnosed with cancer in a major way

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Cancer is known as the silent killer and is considered the leading cause of death among firefighters.

A new law in Tennessee to help firefighters diagnosed with cancer is headed to the governor’s desk, and Memphis firefighters are eager for it to be signed.

The bill would establish a presumption that being a firefighter is not only dangerous, but there is a risk to contracting cancer.

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"The materials, the smoke, the carcinogens that firefighters come in contact with on a daily basis," said Matt Tomek, of the Memphis Fire Association. “We have thought it for years that cancer was related to the profession."

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Studies have shown firefighters have a nine percent higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer and a 14 percent higher risk of dying from cancer than the general public.

This new bill that passed the TN Legislature gives fire fighters better coverage if they contract one of four cancers while on the job and five years after retirement.

If they contract non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, colon or skin cancer and multiple myeloma, it would be treated as an on-the-job injury.

"It would be no different than a fire fighter breaking his leg on the scene of a house fire," Tomek said.

For the firefighter and family, it would mean the medical cost, leave and treatment would be paid by the city or county.

If the disease forces them to retire, they would qualify for line of disability pension.

"They would retire with at least 60 percent of their salary and stay on the city's health insurance until they turn 65," said Tomek.

The legislation will add extra cost to the state and local governments depending on the size of the fire department and number of cancer cases diagnosed.

MFA officials told FOX13 their members will have to undergo a cancer test each year while employed to detect the disease early.