Objective. To investigate quality of life, measured by the SF-36 scales, in a population-based sample of women who have survived cancer at any site and, specifically, breast cancer. Design. A representative cohort of women was observed over 24 years with regard to cancer prevalence, incidence, and quality of life. Setting. Gothenburg, Sweden. Subjects. A total of 1462 women aged 38-60 years at baseline. Main outcome measures. Differences in quality of life between cancer survivors and cancer-free controls measured by the SF-36 Short Form Health Survey, with adjustment for age and additionally for social status, and history of major disease (diabetes, stroke, and myocardial infarction) at follow-up in 1992-93. Results. In women who had survived cancer, a lower feeling of general health was the only score found to be significantly associated with having had cancer. Similar analysis was conducted separately for breast cancer cases. Survivors of breast cancer reported lower vitality and when controlled for major disease also lower general health compared with women who had not had cancer. All other results were independent when adjusted for social status, and also for history of major disease. Conclusions. Women who have survived cancer report lowered general health, and breast cancer cases lowered vitality, but considering the non-significant results for the other scores and summary scales it can be concluded that the well-being of women who have survived a cancer on the whole did not differ profoundly from that of other women.