Psychological and social effects of cancer


The development of cancer treatments has improved the survival rates of child cancer patients and a higher proportion of patients with childhood cancer now reach maturity than was the case earlier. However, delayed health problems related to treatments for cancer in childhood have come into focus. This study mainly looks at somatic long-term effects.

The aim is to detect delayed psychosocial and socioeconomic effects experienced by cancer patients. We seek to identify those patients who are at the greatest risk of facing psychosocial challenges and who are thus at high risk of social exclusion. The study focuses on education and employment after cancer, the establishment of a family (finding a spouse, marrying and divorcing, childbearing, infertility), ability to carry out military service (army attendance and classification), mental illness (diagnoses), risk behaviours (criminal offences, suicides) and the need for various social benefits or other aid.

The research data encompasses all patients under the age of 20 years diagnosed with cancer in Finland from 1970 to 2012 (approximately 8 500 persons). Five healthy population-based control subjects of similar age and sex have been extracted for each cancer patient from the Population Register. Additionally, patients’ siblings are being sought as a second control group. The children of cancer patients, the children of control subjects and of siblings, as well as information on the relocations, marital status and its changes and mortality data are also being sought from the Population Register. The data generated are directly linked to the health records and also KELA data on medical reimbursements, pensions data and social benefits provision. These data are analysed in the Remote Access Environment of Statistics Finland without identifiers.

Most important publications: 

Childhood cancer survival in Finland (1953-2010): a nation-wide population-based study.

Late psychiatric morbidity in survivors of cancer at a young age: a nationwide registry-based study. 

Hospital contacts for endocrine disorders in Adult Life after Childhood Cancer in Scandinavia (ALiCCS): a population-based cohort study.

Research team: Matti Rantanen, Janne Pitkäniemi, Anniina Tolkkinen, Liisa Korhonen, Tiina Hakanen, Sirpa Heinävaara, Johanna Melin, Viivi Seppänen

Funding: Cancer Foundation of Finland grant, NordForsk grant

Collaborating institutions:  The Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa Pediatric Outpatient Clinic and the Women’s Hospital, Karolinska Institute, and the Danish Cancer Society

Lead researchers: Nea Malila, Laura Madanat-Harjuoja