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Bosnia study 1992-1996

Bosnia Study 1992-1996

Cancer risk and mortality in UK Service personnel deployed to Bosnia 1992-1996


Principal investigator: Professor Nicola T Fear

There has been much speculation that military personnel who served on UN peacekeeping duties in Bosnia in 1992-1996 have higher than expected rates of cancer. It has been suggested that the alleged higher rates could be related to exposure to hazardous materials during deployment.

This study uses data from a cohort study carried out in 1997/8 on the health consequences of the 1990-1991 Gulf War. A comparison group for that study comprised personnel who served on peace-keeping duties in Bosnia between 1992 and 1996. In addition to the self-reported health, lifestyle and exposure data collected from participants in 1997/8, we continue to receive cancer and death registration data for the Bosnia group from NHS digital. We will obtain cancer and death notification data for personnel who were in service during the relevant period but who did not deploy to Bosnia.

The overall aim of the study is to compare the incidence of cancer in a cohort of UK armed forces personnel who deployed to Bosnia between 1992 and 1996 and a cohort of personnel who were in service at the time but did not deploy to Bosnia. We will compare the rate of cancer in the Bosnia group with the rate in the general UK population. Additionally, we will assess whether the risk of cancer in the Bosnia group is associated with exposures to hazardous materials during their deployment.



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Project title:Cancer risk and mortality in a sample of UK service personnel deployed to Bosnia 1992-1996

Identity and contact details of the data controller

King’s College London, Strand, London, WC2R 2LS

If you would like to discuss anything related to this study please contact: Margaret Jones, Research Associate.

Telephone: 0207 8485351

What is the legal basis for processing the information?

The lawful basis for the processing of this information is:

Article 6(1) (e) of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): processing is necessary for the performance of a task carried out in the public interest or in the exercise of official authority vested in the controller.

Article 9(2) (j) of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): processing is necessary for archiving purposes in the public interest, scientific or historical research purposes or statistical purposes in accordance with Article 89(1) based on Union or Member State law which shall be proportionate to the aim pursued, respect the essence of the right to data protection and provide for suitable and specific measures to safeguard the fundamental rights and the interests of the data subject.

Project background/status

In 1997/8, King’s College London (KCL) surveyed members of UK Armed Forces who had deployed to Bosnia on UN peacekeeping duties as part of a larger study looking at the health consequences of the 1991 Gulf War. Data was collected using a questionnaire.

What information did we collect from you during the questionnaire study?

  • Socio-demographic and Service background
  • Lifestyle factors (alcohol, smoking)
  • Exposures during deployment in Bosnia e.g. contact with fires, fumes, chemicals, depleted uranium
  • Physical health symptoms
  • Medical conditions
  • Fatigue symptoms
  • Aches and pains
  • Preferred contact address

What other information did we collect?

The MOD provided us with your name, rank, service number and contact details (address) so that we were able to contact you to invite you to take part.  

Do we link any of your information with other sources of information?

A data linkage is when one source of information (data) is merged with another source to provide additional information. We have carried out data linkage with NHS Digital.  This involved sending the name, date of birth, NHS number and a unique identification code to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) for each person in the study. Study members were flagged on NHS Digital data sources so that we can be supplied with details of death registrations and cancer registrations that occur. Death and cancer registration details are sent to us with your personal identifying information (name, date of birth, NHS number) removed.  The information is encrypted and transferred using a secure system. None of your questionnaire responses was sent to the ONS or NHS Digital.

Why was the information collected?

The overall aim of the study is to see if there is any difference in the number of cancers among UK Armed Forces personnel who deployed to Bosnia between 1992 and 1996 and personnel who were in service at the time but who did not deploy to Bosnia. We will also compare the rate of cancer in the Bosnia group with that in the general UK population. If we find any increase in cancer in the Bosnia group we will try to determine if exposure to harmful materials during deployment might be responsible.

Will the information be shared?

We will not pass your contact details (address, email address, phone numbers) to third parties. Nobody outside of the research team will see your questionnaire information in a way that you can be identified. We may share the information you gave on the questionnaire with other research institutions, but this will not include personal information that would identify you.   We have undertaken data linkage (described above) in which your name, date of birth and your NHS number have been shared to link with additional information held by NHS Digital.

How do we keep your information safe and secure?

The information you provided on your questionnaires is held separately to your name and contact information. Personal identifiable information is stored securely, using password protection and encryption and is not accessible to the researchers analysing the cancer and death registration details.

How long will the information be kept for?

20 years after publication of the main analysis.

How can you withdraw from the study?

Participants who registered a type 2 objection have had the data that was supplied to us from NHS Digital deleted from our database. Participants who choose not to have their patient information used for research via the national data opt-out will have the data supplied to us from NHS Digital deleted from our database.

If you wish to withdraw from the study you can do so by contacting the KCL Data Protection Officer:

Mr Albert Chan, Assistant Director of Business Assurance (Information Compliance), King’s College London, James Clerk Maxwell Building, 57 Waterloo Road, London, SE1 8WA


Tel: +44(0)20 7848 7816

Rights of access

You have the right to see the information we hold about you.  Should you wish to do so, please contact the KCL Data Protection Officer using the contact details above.

Right to be forgotten

You have the right to ask for your personal data to be erased from this study if you object to the processing of your data, if the data are no longer needed or if deleting the information is a legal requirement. We will remove your data from the study database and request that NHS Digital also comply with your request for erasure. 

If you have a concern about the way we handle your personal information you can contact the Information Commissioner’s Office at: Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF

OR via the live chat line:

OR Telephone: 0303 123 1113


Date last reviewed: 03/09/2018

Date last updated: 03/09/2018

By: Margaret Jones, Research Associate, Bosnia study


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