1 Foreword

The Finnish Cancer Registry has completed the cancer statistics on the year 2021 (cancerregistry.fi/statistics/cancer-statistics). The objective of the statistics is to provide a comprehensive overview of Finland’s cancer burden. The report compiles statistical data on new cancer cases, the number of cancer deaths and patient survival, for instance. In addition, the report presents the number of people living with and after cancer, the years of life lost due to cancer as well as predictions of the cancer burden in 2040.

All told, there were 36,543 new cancer cases and 13,355 cancer deaths recorded in 2021. The most common cancer types in women were breast cancer and colorectal cancer. In men, the most common cancer types were prostate cancer and colorectal cancer. In prostate cancer and breast cancer in women, the five-year survival was over 90%. In colorectal cancer, the five-year survival was around 70% The most common causes of cancer deaths in women were breast cancer and lung cancer. In men, lung cancer was the leading cause of cancer deaths, followed by prostate cancer.

The previous statistical report looked at the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the cancer burden and estimated that 1,600 fewer cancer cases (4.3%) were diagnosed in 2020 than would have been expected without the pandemic. According to the new statistics, the shortfall in 2020 has not been reduced, but rather about 900 additional cancer cases accumulated in 2021. The shortfall in the number of new cancer cases and the factors affecting it are examined in chapter 3 of this report.

For the first time, this report looks at the cancer burden in terms of years of life lost. The Finnish population was estimated to lose almost 200,000 years of life to cancer in a single year. Women lose the most years of life to breast cancer and men to lung cancer. A total of 18,000 years of life are lost due to breast cancer. 34,500 years of life are lost due to lung cancer, 21,000 of them in the male population.

This report again does not include an analysis of short-term changes in the cancer burden, as the gap caused by the Covid-19 pandemic in the diagnosis of new cases undermines the reliability of the analyses. The cancer statistics in this report have been compiled in line with the clinical cancer classification system (ICD-10), going back as far as 1953, the year the Finnish Cancer Registry was founded. Due to changes in the classification of haematological cancers, the time series of these diseases is only comparable from 2007 onwards.

The data sources of the Finnish Cancer Registry are healthcare providers and pathology laboratories. The coverage of data from pathology laboratories is high, but it is a challenge to obtain information on cancers for which there are no samples in the laboratories. We will work closely with healthcare units and developers of patient information systems to improve the data coverage. We have published the updated clinical notifications statistics for the third time on our website (syoparekisteri.fi/tilastot/kliinisten-ilmoitusten-tilasto).

The disclosure of cancer data on 2021 for research purposes began in April 2023. The Finnish Cancer Registry is a research institute under the Cancer Society of Finland that maintains the national registry of all diagnosed cancer cases and a registry on cervical, breast and colorectal cancer screening. The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare is the controller of the cancer registry and as such has given the Cancer Society of Finland responsibility for the operation of the registries.

We want to extend our sincerest thanks to all our partners for their good cooperation. Comprehensive and long time series represent a valuable national capital.

Helsinki, 31 May 2023

Janne Pitkäniemi, Professor Tomas Tanskanen, MD Karri Seppä, Docent
Director Chief Medical Officer Research Manager
tel. +358 50 372 3335 tel. +358 50 320 8035 tel. +358 50 441 8556

2 Cancer situation in 2021

There were a total of 36 543 new cancer cases diagnosed in Finland in 2021. Of these, 17 440 were diagnosed in women and 19 103 in men. A total of 13 355 people died from cancer in 2021 (TABLE 2.1). More than 315,000 Finns who had been diagnosed with cancer were alive at the end of 2021: 56% were women and 44% were men. The five-year relative survival rate of cancer patients monitored between 2019 and 2021 was 70%.

TABLE 2.1: New cancer cases and cancer deaths in 2021, cancer prevalence and five-year relative survival ratio of patients in the Finnish population separately for women and men.
Total population Female Male
36 543 new cases 17 440 new cases 19 103 new cases
13 355 cancer deaths 6 090 cancer deaths 7 265 cancer deaths
315 230 living patients 176 686 living patients 138 544 living patients
70% five-year survival rate 71% five-year survival rate 69% five-year survival rate
\label{dual-plots-all}Cancer incidence and mortality (per 100,000 person-years and age-standardised to the 2014 Finnish population) and age-standardised five-year relative survival ratio (%) by sex in 1953–2021.

FIGURE 2.1: Cancer incidence and mortality (per 100,000 person-years and age-standardised to the 2014 Finnish population) and age-standardised five-year relative survival ratio (%) by sex in 1953–2021.

Figure (FIGURE 2.1) shows the age-standardised cancer incidence and mortality and the relative survival rate of patients from 1953 to 2021. Cancer incidence increased in women by 0.7% on average per year between 1990 and 2006 and by 1.0% on average per year between 2007 and 2019 (TABLE 15.5). In men, the previous increase (1.0% per year in 1990–2003, TABLE 15.6) has levelled out (-0.2% per year in 2004–2019). The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on cancer incidence is assessed in chapter 3. Cancer mortality decreased among women and men: on average by 0.5% per year (2006–2021) in women and by 1.1% per year in men (2008–2021, TABLE 15.7 and TABLE 15.8). The relative survival rate has improved steadily in women, and the previous rapid improvement in the survival rate in men has slowed down since the early 2000s.