Cancer risk after benzene exposure

There are several ongoing research sub-projects at the Cancer Registry of Norway (CRN) that investigate cancer risk among offshore workers. This particular project looks into the relation between recent offshore benzene exposure and the risk to develop different cancers.
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In recent years, there has been increased awareness of benzene exposure and the associated risk of cancer. Research suggests that benzene has a carcinogenic effect at lower concentrations than first thought, and that benzene exposure may be linked to several types of cancer, such as lymphomas and leukaemia. Our studies on this topic used data from the “Offshore-cohort” from 1998, which include offshore workers active between 1965 and 1998. For evaluation of more recent exposures, which may be lower than those of the 1980s–1990s, there is a need for new data from the last 20 years of offshore activity.


This study will use data from the new “heliport-cohort” to study benzene exposure and the risk of cancer among offshore workers in recent years. The first scientific questions are:

Does benzene exposure measured as a time-dependent variable and occurring at low levels increase the risk of lymphomas, leukaemia, and related cancers?

Does benzene exposure measure as a time-dependent variable lead to increased lung cancer risk when smoking habits are adjusted for?

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  • In December 2019, the project received a grant of 6 mill NOK from the Research Council of Norway’ PETROMAKS2 program (project no. 308846), and 1.5 mill NOK from the Norwegian oil companies and the Norwegian Shipowners Association.
  • In May/June 2020, a Collaboration Agreement was signed between the oil companies and the Norwegian Cancer Registry.
  • In November 2020, the project received ethical approval from the Regional Committees for Medical and Health Research Ethics (REK), project no. 136984 for receivement and usage of register data.
  • In January 2021, the Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) was approved
  • Status: the Heliport cohort is under establishment. Read more about the data collection here.

In the media

The research project has gotten the following media attention (all in Norwegian): 

Nye studier om kreftrisiko blant offshorearbeidere

Jakter på oljearbeiderne -

Kreftrisikoen blant offshorearbeidere skal kartlegges -


The project has an active reference group which consist of representatives from the employee, employer and supervisory authorities. As of November 2020, the reference group consists of representatives from LO, SAFE, Norsk Industri, Petroleumstilsynet, Norges Rederiforbund and Equinor.