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European Cancer Code needs boosting, experts say

The European Code Against Cancer, a prevention tool with 12 ways to reduce cancer risk, is to be updated from its current 4th edition.  International Agency for Research on Cancer IARC has now published its recommendations for the update and better implementation of the Code.

The recommendations are collaborative work of IARC, the Cancer Society of Finland and the Association of European Cancer Leagues ECL within an EU-co-funded Joint Action Innovative Partnership for Action Against Cancer (iPAAC).

The Cancer Society of Finland leads iPAAC Work Package 5 Prevention with the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare THL representing governmental agency.

The European Code is an initiative of the European Commission and its first edition was published in 1987. IARC has been responsible for the scientific basis on the 4th edition. The European Cancer Leagues is involved in the dissemination of the Code.

Over 100 experts consulted

About four out of ten cancers could be prevented. In the recommendations published in April, the scope is suggested to broaden to include communities and risk groups in addition to individual level.

There is clear evidence how taxes, legislation and plain packaging reduce cigarette smoking especially among young people. Similarly taxes on salt, unhealthy fat and sugar can steer consumers towards healthier diets. The awareness of carcinogenicity of alcohol is poorly known. Exposures to carcinogenic substances at work, vaccinations and early detection are mentioned in the Cancer Code.

Over 100 experts were involved in the consultations of how to update the code. Partnerships and multi-disciplinary way of boosting implementation were among recommendations. Links to other non-communicable diseases need strengthening. Visibility of the European Code could be better than now. This includes messages to difference audiences, target groups and national adaptations.

Four specific recommendations are for research:  implementation of prevention measures across Europe, and evaluation of novel preventive interventions;  systematic evaluation and guidelines of the Code, creation of European Evidence-based Cancer Prevention Centre; and strengthening research into the causes of cancer.

The European Cancer Code has close integration to both Europe´s Beating Cancer Plan and research programmes of Cancer Mission. The Europe´s Beating Cancer Plan includes update and  boosting implementation of the Cancer Code for the years 2021-2025.


Scholarly article Espina et al. Cancer Epidemiol 2021; 72: 101933

ECL webpages of the Code

WP5 and iPAAC