A report from the Washington-based National League of Cities (NLC) that said there was no evidence of a causal connection between firefighting and contracting cancer used "flawed research methodology that produce predetermined outcomes," according to a rebuttal report from the Fairfax, Va.-based International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC). The original NLC report called into question "presumption laws" passed in 24 states that allow firefighters with cancer to collect workers' compensation without proving that they contracted the disease as a result of their job.

The NLC report, "Assessing State Firefighter Cancer Presumption Laws and Current Firefighter Cancer Research," was a study of 17 previous studies and offered no new independent research data, according to IAFC's panel of medical research experts called to review the report.

The IAFC panel questioned the NLC report's "subjective and highly questionable methodology," saying there was no quantitative review, published criteria selecting studies for inclusion were inconsistent and that NLC investigators were unable to reliably classify the studies included. "If the National League of Cities is truly concerned about evaluating this issue 'objectively and scientifically' as they stated in their press release, then they need to look at all the data in a scientifically sound manner," said IAFC President Chief Larry Grorud.

NLC Manager of Media Relations Gregory Minchak says the NLC stands behind its report, which he says basically calls for more research on the risk of cancer among firefighters. As for the inclusion of cancer in presumption laws, Minchak says that probably comes from a well-meaning desire to support firefighters. "But, at the same time, a lot of this is happening, and there are some burdens that are being put on municipalities and cities that are just very difficult to cover," he says. "They don't necessarily have the resources to handle these claims."

View IAFC's Review and Assessment of the National League of Cities' Assessing State Firefighter Cancer Presumption Laws and Current Firefighter Cancer Research report.

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