Locomotive drivers in the steam engine era were exposed to asbestos during their vocational training for two years while training in workshops. Later in their career they had exposure to coal and diesel combustion products. To assess the level of earlier exposure historical working conditions were reconstructed and hygienic conditions were measured. The average exposure to asbestos (mainly anthophylline) fibres > 5 microns was 5.0 fibres/cm3. Incidence of cancer in a cohort of 8391 members of the Finnish Locomotive Drivers' Association, 1953-91, was analysed. The incidence of lung cancer and also total cancer was below the national average, probably due to the low prevalence of smoking among the drivers in the steam engine era. A four-fold risk of mesothelioma was found, most likely caused by exposure to asbestos. Also the observed 1.5-fold incidence of non-melanoma skin cancer and 1.7-fold risk of cancer of the oral cavity and pharynx may be related to occupation.
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