Collaborative projects

The Cancer Registry conducts active research collaboration with national and international partners.


TOwards imProved screening for breast, cervical and colorectal cancer In All of EUrope

The EU-TOPIA project is intended to provide information on screening for breast, cervical and colorectal cancer across the EU. The research target is the optimum implementation and scope of screenings, their benefits, their harms and their cost-effectiveness. The task set for Finland in the EU-TOPIA project is to define the parameters of benefits and harms, to define socio-economic and equality dimensions of screening and to participate in the validation of modelling for three main screenings. The information collected through the EU-TOPIA project will also be used to develop MISCAN software. The development objectives of MISCAN are to make it more appropriate for life-time evaluation by improving the input parameters and conversion variables used in its modelling.

As part of the EU-TOPIA project, the benefits and harms of breast cancer screening in Finland are being investigated in the study “Lifelong benefits and harms of breast cancer screening”. The study has two approaches, cross-sectional and longitudinal. The main approach is to investigate lifelong cumulative effects instead of previous approach of using cross-sectional comparisons. The purpose of the project is to find out the long-term (cumulative) benefits and harms of screening whilst taking into account the use of other health services.

Research protocol, summary:

Project presentation:


Lead researcher: Ahti Anttila

Research team: Milla Lehtinen, Sirpa Heinävaara, Tytti Sarkeala, Nea Malila, Suvi Mäklin, Maiju Pankakoski, Petra Makkonen, Sanni Helander

Funding: EU Horizon 2020 programme

Collaborating institutions: Erasmus University Medical Center (NL), London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (UK), CPO Piemonte (IT), Institute of Oncology Ljubljana (SI), National Institute for Health Development (EE), Syreon Institute (HU), Auria Biopankki?


As part of the Center of Excellence in Tumor Genetics, the Finnish Cancer Registry group studies the relationship between cancer and co-morbidities using epidemiological methods. Clustering and accumulation of cancers and co-morbidities is explored e.g. by utilizing information on the place of birth and family name obtained from various national registries. Heritability of cancers is evaluated in large datasets of families with early on-set cancer cases.

All the above aims to find groups of patients with most interesting cancer types and co-morbidities. Cancer information from the Finnish Cancer Registry is utilized when constructing the genealogy of inherited cancer phenotypes. This is useful in examining the clinical features of cancer patients and in retrieving tissue samples. The research aims at recognizing common molecular characteristics of cancers and co-morbidities.

The research project is part of Centre of Excellence in Tumour Genetics Research and is led by Professor Lauri Aaltonen and funded by the Academy of Finland. The unit consists of research teams under Lauri Aaltonen (University of Helsinki), Janne Pitkäniemi (Finnish Cancer Registry), Matti Nykter (University of Tampere) and Jussi Taipale (University of Helsinki).

Project presentation: The Finnish Center of Excellence in Tumor Genetics 

Lead researcher: Janne Pitkäniemi

Research team: Sanna Heikkinen, Elli Hirvonen (Finnish Cancer Registry)

Funding: Academy of Finland

Collaborating institution:  University of Helsinki


The aim of the Nordscreen project is to develop an openly available web-based tool to investigate the development of cancer screening indicators across the Nordic countries and Estonia. The development of comparable screening indicators and public reporting support the improvement of the quality of screening programmes.

Nordic screening programmes differ from one another and direct comparison between them is difficult without uniformly defined indicators agreed between the participating countries. The process and performance indicators that are to be developed are based on international research projects and recommendations. Individual-level screening data that forms the basis for indicators are collected from national mass screening registries that are in international comparison comprehensive and of high of quality.

The project started in the spring of 2016 and will run until the end of 2018. It focuses primarily on cervical cancer screening programmes but it is being extended as far as possible to include breast and colorectal cancer screening programmes.

Research protocol: Nordscreen (pdf)

Lead researcher: Ahti Anttila

Research team: Veli-Matti Partanen, Maiju Pankakoski, Tytti Sarkeala, Sirpa Heinävaara, Stefan Lönnberg

Funding: Nordic Information for Action e-Science Center (NIASC) / Nordforsk

Collaborating institutions:  Karolinska Institutet (Sweden), Cancer Registry of Norway, Icelandic Cancer Registry, Danish Quality Database for Cervical Cancer Screening, Estonian National Institute for Health Development


Overdiagnosis of cancer refers to cancers cases that would not have been detected without screening and which might not subsequently fully develop or cause any symptoms in an individual’s lifetime. Estimates of the magnitude of overdiagnosis in European breast cancer screening programmes vary greatly depending on the method (0-50%).

Umeå University has developed a new approach to assessing overdiagnosis known as the multi-state model. The multi-state model has already been applied to Swedish registry data with promising results. The benefit of using this model is that the evaluation of the overdiagnosis does not require an anticipated incidence of breast cancer without screening.

Researchers at the University of Umeå need a certain amount data on breast cancer screening to validate the model. In Finland, all women in the target age group have been invited for breast cancer screening since the 1980s, and thus the incidence of breast cancer in the Finnish female population without screening is difficult to assess. The use of Finnish registry data modelling studies also benefit us, because this allows us to estimate the magnitude of overdiagnosis in breast cancer screening in the current target age range of women between the ages of 50 and 69 years.

The collaborative project started in 2016. A research permit will be acquired during year 2018 after which the necessary data will be modified and submitted for use by Umeå University researchers.

Lead researcher: Tytti Sarkeala

Research team: Sirpa Heinävaara

Funding: Cancer Society of Finland

Yhteistyötahot:  Umeå University (lead researchers Håkan Jonsson, Wendy Yi-Ying Wu, Lennart Nyström), the Norwegian Cancer Registry (Solveig Hofvind), University of Copenhagen (Søren Nymand Lophaven), Stockholm-Gotland Regional Cancer Registry (Sven Törnberg)


The entire project comprises several separate smaller projects. The following projects are currently in progress:

  • Hidden structures in the cancer incidence. The project uses the Invariant Coordinate Selection time series for the incidence of cancer and compares the functionality of the method with the traditional principal components analysis (PCA) currently used. The article written on the project is designed to be part of the doctoral dissertation that will be written by Niko Lietzen, a doctoral student at Aalto University. The project is under the responsibility of Janne Pitkäniemi and Sirpa Heinävaara at the Finnish Cancer Registry.
  • Overdiagnosis of breast cancer in women aged 50-69 years. We will develop an alternative assessment method for evaluating overdiagnosis in breast cancer screening with Matias Heikkilä, a postgraduate student at Aalto University. The project is under the responsibility of Sirpa Heinävaara and Tytti Sarkeala at the Finnish Cancer Registry.

Lead researcher: Janne Pitkäniemi

Research team: Sirpa Heinävaara, Tytti Sarkeala

Funding: Cancer Society of Finland

Collaborating institution: Aalto University (Pauliina Ilmonen, Niko Lietzen, Matias Heikkilä). Collaboration with Aalto University started in 2015.