The causes of cancer and cancer burden

Etiological research studies causes of cancer. Epidemiological research in turn studies cancer burden in population, the incidence of cancers, survival of patients and cancer mortality.

The objective of the METCA project is to evaluate the impact of modifiable risk factors on the cancer burden in Finland, utilizing THL’s extensive, longitudinal population data. The population cancer burden refers to both the risk of cancer and mortality caused by cancer in the Finnish population. The aim of the project is to obtain up-to-date information on cancer risk factors in Finland and their future impacts. The research utilizes modern statistical modelling of longitudinal data for the estimation of population attributable fractions (PAF), which also takes into account the impact of mortality. The aim is to provide information on cancer risk factors, which supports decision-making in cancer prevention work and to provide the general population in Finland with evidence-based information on how the risk of cancer can be affected by their own lifestyles and choices.

The project started in 2015 with an inventory analysis. Population cohorts have been harmonized for cancer, mortality and risk factor data. Initially, an estimate is made about the extent to which cancer is caused by lifestyle-related risk factors. Preparation of initial analyses and reporting are currently in process.

Lead researcher: Janne Pitkäniemi

Research team: Karri Seppä, Sanna Heikkinen, Tiina Hakanen, Heidi Ryynänen, METCA Study group

Funder: Cancer Society of Finland, Cancer Foundation of Finland

Collaborating institutions: Department of Health and Wellbeing, University of Helsinki / Department of Public Health


1. Pitkäniemi, J., Heikkinen, S., Jousilahti, P., Laaksonen, M. & Seppä, K. Savuton, raitis tai normaalipainoinen Suomi – miten käy uusien syöpien? Duodecim; Laaketieteellinen Aikakauskirja 133, 2035–42 (2017).

Janne Pitkäniemi
Director for Statistics
+358 50 372 3335