Objective As the traditional perils at sea counting shipwrecks, accidents, piracy and infectious diseases have subsided at least for ships embarking from the Western world, the burden of cancer among seafarers has emerged as a focus point for further health improvements. Even aboard modern ships, occupational hazards are numerous and the aim of this study is to offer updated information on the incidence of specific cancers among both male and female Danish seafarers.
Method All seafarers employed on Danish ships during 1986–1999 were identified through records from the Danish Seafarer Registry providing a cohort of 33 340 men and 11 291 women. Using the unique Danish personal identification number, information on cancer and vital status was linked to cohort members from the Danish Cancer Registry and the Danish Civil Registration System. Standardised incidence ratios for specific cancers were estimated using national rates.
Results Compared to the general population, the overall incidence of cancer was increased for both male and female seafarers (SIR 1.16, 95% CI 1.13–1.20 and SIR 1.12, 95% CI 1.05–1.20). This excess was primarily driven by increases in gastrointestinal, respiratory and urinary cancers among the men, while the women also had increases in cervical and ovarian cancer. The SIR for melanoma of the skin and lip cancer was increased for women and men respectively, while an excess of pleural cancer only affected the men.
Conclusion Cancer among Danish seafarers continue to be primarily lifestyle-related. However, occupational exposure to UV-radiation, asbestos and other chemicals may affect the morbidity pattern as well.
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