Tasks of Finnish Cancer Registry

The nationwide and population-based Finnish Cancer Registry

    • produces descriptive information on the magnitude of and predicted changes in the cancer situation (incidence, prevalence and mortality) in Finland;
    • produces countrywide and regional estimates for cancer patient survival for monitoring and comparative purposes;
    • conducts analytical research into the cancer problem using advanced methods of epidemiology and biostatistics, e.g., on the causes of cancer and effectiveness of  cancer control interventions, and provides data to outside researchers and helps them in the design and execution of the studies;
    • acts as a specialist organisation in questions related to cancer epidemiology, and in the planning and evaluation of  mass-screening programmes and other actions against cancer, and
    • develops new methods for epidemiological and biostatistical research, and supervises doctoral disserations.


1953 was the first complete year of countrywide cancer registration in Finland. The National Board of Health requested all physicians, hospitals and laboratories to report all diagnosed or suspected cases of cancer to the Finnish Cancer Registry. Such notification has been compulsory since 1961.

The notifications, supplemented by death certificate information from Statistics Finland, are built into a database that is suitable for statistical use. Tables and other summarised information are compiled from this database, e.g., to be published  as reports from the Cancer Registry and as a part of Finland's and the European Union's official statistics. In principle, the database contains information on all cancer cases diagnosed in residents of Finland since 1953. For solid tumours, the completeness of the registration has been shown to be over 99% (Teppo et al. 1994).

Throughout the Finnish Cancer Registry's more than 50-year history, some 1500 scientific articles and about 100 doctoral dissertations have been published in which the Registry's scientists or its data have had a central role. Research related to the countrywide screening programmes of cervical cancer and breast cancer is conducted at the Mass-Screening Registry,which is a part of the Finnish Cancer Registry. Recently, the Mass-Screening Registry has initiated the nationwide screening programme for colorectal cancer — the first of its kind in the world.

Registered patient data can only be used for scientific research and statistics. Special tabulations are produced on request. Scientists requiring individual patient data have to apply for permission from the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).