History of the Association of Nordic Cancer Registries

by Timo Hakulinen
Finnish Cancer Registry

The first collaboration between the national cancer registries took place right at the beginning of the registration in a new country.There was a vivid exchange of visits, experiences and information when cancer registries were founded. In the early 1950s, contacts with Denmark and Norway were of vital importance for the Finnish Cancer Registry.

All the countries were represented at the Inter-European symposium to be held in 1955 in Copenhagen at the initiative of Dr. Johannes Clemmesen. The cancer registries met together with the Nordic Cancer Union already in 1961 in Oslo in the cervical cancer symposium, and a more systematic annual meeting practice was started in 1966 in Imatra, Finland.

The aim of the collaboration was to compare the cancer incidence rates in the countries and to use that comparison in order to find out factors that explain the differences. It was realized that technical factors, definitions etc. also play an important role, and therefore a lot of attention was focused also on standardization of definitions and practices.

Over the years, extensive comparisons between the countries have been published as journal supplements, e.g., in incidence, incidence trends and maps, incidence and mortality predictions, occupational cancer, effects of cancer screening, population-based survival rates and the reasons behind them, and estimates on avoidable cancer in the Nordic countries. These results have also been communicated in local languages to the Nordic and national authorities. High-quality epidemiological collaboration has been conducted, e.g., in childhood cancer and using biological specimen banks leading to important discoveries in the aetiology of cancer.

In 2000 the registries had the NORDCAN (link til PC-Nordcan) programme developed, enabling easy access to basic cancer statistics as incidence and mortality in the Nordic countries on a regional level. A survey of registration practises initiated the work on this programme (see survey).(Link til Cancer Registry Survey)

  The data from each registry is converted to a similar format facilitating comparative research on e.g. survival. The registries thus play an important role in monitoring the effects of cancer control planning in the Nordic countries. 

The Nordic collaboration has been seminal and provided a good model for international collaboration between cancer registries. The high quality of the data, enthusiastic workers and scientists and the high synergy due to pooling of the efforts and the data has lead the Nordic cancer registry collaboration to achievements better than could be expected from any country with a population of over 23 millions.

Important dates in the develop of the ANCR can be found here