Chernobyl fallout and cancer incidence in Finland

Int J Cancer. 2014 May 1;134(9):2253-63. doi: 10.1002/ijc.28554.


Twenty-five years have passed since the Chernobyl accident, but its health consequences remain to be well established. Finland was one of the most heavily affected countries by the radioactive fallout outside the former Soviet Union. We analyzed the relation of the estimated external radiation exposure from the fallout to cancer incidence in Finland in 1988-2007. The study cohort comprised all ∼ 3.8 million Finns who had lived in the same dwelling for 12 months following the accident (May 1986-April 1987). Radiation exposure was estimated using data from an extensive mobile dose rate survey. Cancer incidence data were obtained for the cohort divided into four exposure categories (the lowest with the first-year committed dose <0.1 mSv and the highest ≥ 0.5 mSv) allowing for a latency of 5 years for leukemia and thyroid cancer, and 10 years for other cancers. Of the eight predefined cancer sites regarded as radiation-related from earlier studies, only colon cancer among women showed an association with exposure from fallout [excess rate ratio per increment in exposure category 0.06, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.02-0.11]. No such effect was observed for men, or other cancer sites. Our analysis of a large cohort over two decades did not reveal an increase in cancer incidence following the Chernobyl accident, with the possible exception of colon cancer among women. The largely null findings are consistent with extrapolation from previous studies suggesting that the effect is likely to remain too small to be empirically detectable and of little public health impact.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chernobyl Nuclear Accident*
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / epidemiology*
  • Public Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Radioactive Fallout / adverse effects*


  • Radioactive Fallout