We present up to 45 years of cancer incidence data by occupational category for the Nordic populations. The study covers the 15 million people aged 3064 years in the 1960, 1970, 1980/1981 and/or 1990 censuses in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, and the 2.8 million incident cancer cases diagnosed in these people in a follow-up until about 2005. The study was undertaken as a cohort study with linkage of individual records based on the personal identity codes used in all the Nordic countries. In the censuses, information on occupation for each person was provided through free text in self-administered questionnaires. The data were centrally coded and computerised in the statistical offices. For the present study, the original occupational codes were reclassified into 53 occupational categories and one group of economically inactive persons. All Nordic countries have a nation-wide registration of incident cancer cases during the entire study period. For the present study the incident cancer cases were classified into 49 primary diagnostic categories. Some categories have been further divided according to sub-site or morphological type. The observed number of cancer cases in each group of persons defined by country, sex, age, period and occupation was compared with the expected number calculated from the stratum specific person years and the incidence rates for the national population. The result was presented as a standardised incidence ratio, SIR, defined as the observed number of cases divided by the expected number. For all cancers combined (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer), the study showed a wide variation among men from an SIR of 0.79 (95% confidence interval 0.660.95) in domestic assistants to 1.48 (1.43-1.54) in waiters. The occupations with the highest SIRs also included workers producing beverage and tobacco, seamen and chimney sweeps. Among women, the SIRs varied from 0.58 (0.37-0.87) in seafarers to 1.27 (1.19-1.35) in tobacco workers. Low SIRs were found for farmers, gardeners and teachers. Our study was able to repeat most of the confirmed associations between occupations and cancers. It is known that almost all mesotheliomas are associated with asbestos exposure. Accordingly, plumbers, seamen and mechanics were the occupations with the highest risk in the present study. Mesothelioma was the cancer type showing the largest relative differences between the occupations. Outdoor workers such as fishermen, gardeners and farmers had the highest risk of lip cancer, while the lowest risk was found among indoor workers such as physicians and artistic workers. Studies of nasal cancer have shown increased risks associated with exposure to wood dust, both for those in furniture making and for those exposed exclusively to soft wood like the majority of Nordic woodworkers. We observed an SIR of 1.84 (1.66-2.04) in male and 1.88 (0.90-3.46) in female woodworkers. For nasal adenocarcinoma, the SIR in males was as high as 5.50 (4.60-6.56). Male waiters and tobacco workers had the highest risk of lung cancer, probably attributable to active and passive smoking. Miners and quarry workers also had a high risk, which might be related to their exposure to silica dust and radon daughters. Among women, tobacco workers and engine operators had a more than fourfold risk as compared with the lung cancer risk among farmers, gardeners and teachers. The occupational risk patterns were quite similar in all main histological subtypes of lung cancer.