A 5-Year Continued Follow-up of Cancer Risk and All-Cause Mortality Among Norwegian Military Peacekeepers Deployed to Kosovo During 1999-2016

Leif Aage Strand, Jan Ivar Martinsen, Einar Kristian Borud

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


INTRODUCTION: In 2012, Norwegian news media reported on cases of brain cancer among Norwegian peacekeeping troops who served in Kosovo, allegedly caused by exposure to depleted uranium fired during airstrikes before the peacekeepers arrived in 1999. A first study followed 6076 military men and women with peacekeeping service in Kosovo during 1999-2011 for cancers and deaths throughout 2011. The study did not support to the idea that peacekeeping service in Kosovo could lead to increased risk of brain cancer or other cancers. However, the average time of follow-up (10.6 years) was rather short for cancer development; therefore the aim of the present study was to evaluate cancer risk and general mortality in an updated cohort after 5 years of additional follow-up. MATERIALS AND METHODS: The updated cohort consisted of 6,159 peacekeepers (5,884 men and 275 women) who served in Kosovo during 1999-2016 and were followed for cancer incidence and mortality from all causes combined throughout 2016. We calculated standardized incidence ratios (SIR) for cancer and standardized mortality ratios (SMR) from national population rates. Poisson regression was used to assess the effect of length of service (<1 year vs. ≥1 year) on cancer risk. RESULTS: We observed 149 cancer cases and 75 deaths in the updated cohort. Observed cancer incidence did not exceed national rates. In men, the SIR for brain cancer was 0.73 (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.32-1.44), based on eight cases, while the risk of colon cancer was lowered (SIR = 0.14, 95% CI 0.00-0.79). The Poisson regression showed no effect of service duration on all-site cancer incidence. Mortality from all causes combined was lower than expected (SMR = 0.62, 95% CI 0.49-0.78) and in accordance with a "healthy soldier effect". CONCLUSION: The extended follow-up did not give support to the suggestion that peacekeeping service in Kosovo could lead to increased risk of cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e239-e243
JournalMilitary medicine
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 12 2020



  • Kosovo
  • brain cancer
  • cancer
  • cohort study
  • depleted uranium
  • military
  • mortality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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