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The Bosnia Veterans Study

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

There has been some speculation that military personnel who served on UN peacekeeping duties in Bosnia between 1992 and 1996 might have higher than expected rates of cancer. It has been suggested that if there are higher rates, they could be related to exposure to hazardous materials during deployment.

Between 1997 and 1998, 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. 2620 personnel who served on peace-keeping duties in Bosnia between 1992 and 1996 took part in that study along with 2961 personnel who deployed to the Gulf War (1990/91) and 2614 personnel who were in service at the time but who did not deploy 1.

The overall aim of the current study is to compare the rate of cancer in the group 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.


Who are we?

The Bosnia 1992-1996 study is conducted by King’s Centre for Military Health Research (KCMHR), King’s College London (KCL), which is the leading civilian United Kingdom (UK) centre of excellence for military health research. KCMHR is independent of the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) and our work has helped shape government policy towards military personnel, veterans and their families. Our research is conducted within the KCL governance framework which ensures that our work is carried out to high scientific and ethical standards.

To carry out the current study, we will be using information from the 1997/1998 study that collected exposure and health data in from UK military personnel who deployed to Bosnia (1992/97) and also up to date information from national registry data on deaths and cancers. KCL will act as data controllers for this study. This means that we are responsible for looking after your information and using it properly.


What information did we collect from you during the 1997/8 Gulf War study?

  • Demographic data (sex, age, education and marital status)

. Service background (rank, service branch, enlistment type)

  • 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 name, rank, service number and contact details (address) of personnel who were sampled for the study so that we could make contact and invite individuals to take part. The MOD also provided NHS number if it was available.


What information are we collecting for the current study?

King’s College, London are collecting updated information on mortality and cancer data for the Bosnia group from NHS Digital.

We have carried out a 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 Bosnia group. Study members were flagged on NHS Digital data sources so that we can be supplied with details of any death registrations and cancer registrations that occur. Death and cancer registration details are sent to us but your personal identifying information (name, date of birth, NHS number) is removed before it is sent. The information is encrypted and transferred using a secure system. None of your questionnaire responses was sent to the ONS or NHS Digital.


Why are we collecting this new information?

It is more than 20 years since UN peacekeeping operations in Bosnia and we need to collect up to date cancer registry data to see if there is any difference in the number of cancer cases or deaths 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 be able to compare the rate of cancer in the Bosnia group with the rate 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.


Identity and contact details of the data controller

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


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.


How can you withdraw from the study?

Participants who have chosen not to have their patient information used for research via the national data opt-out have had thee data that was previously 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:

Ms Olenka Cogias, 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.


How can I object to my data being used?

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 you wish to object to your personal data being processed please email your reason(s) to the KCL Data Protection Officer: Ms Olenka Cogias Information Compliance team, King's College London, Waterloo Campus Room 5.20, James Clerk Maxwell Building, 57 Waterloo Road, London, SE1 8WA; or by email: Objections will be responded to without undue delay and within one month of receipt.

If you have a concern about the way we handle your personal information you can contact the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

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