Finland helps boost cancer prevention and early detection in iPAAC Joint Action

Finland is taking part in the Joint Action of the Innovative Partnership for Action Against Cancer (iPAAC), an EU-wide governmental initiative that was launched in April 2018 that runs until April 2021.

The Finnish organisations involved in the Joint Action are the Cancer Society of Finland (CSF) and the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL). There are altogether 44 partner organisations in 24 European states taking part in the iPAAC Joint Action.

The iPAAC is building on the results of two previous joint actions, the European Partnership for Action Against cancer (EPAAC) and Cancer Control (CANCON). It aims to develop fresh ways of raising issues in cancer control that need greater attention in how people look after their health and how governments carry out polices on cancer control.

The iPAAC is being funded by the European Union’s Third Health Programme, a funding mechanism designed to promote initiatives focusing on disease control and health lifestyle promotion. It is receiving €4.5-million in funding from the European Commission. The general aim of the iPAAC Joint Action is to develop innovative approaches in advancing cancer control.

Specifically, the Joint Action focuses on new measures in cancer prevention and a range of areas that support prevention and cutting edge treatments. They include cancer genomics, the use of cancer registries, new developments in cancer care and treatment, and how cancer control can be better pursued at policy level – including by taking a fresh look at National Cancer Control Plans. The aim is to emerge with a practical strategy, or ‘roadmap’ for carrying out cancer control activity sustainably.

The iPAAC is structured into 10 thematic Work Packages. Work Package 5 (WP5) deals with prevention and screening, and is being coordinated by the CSF, making the Finnish input in the iPAAC Joint Action particularly relevant. On 20 May this year, the CSF will highlight the role of early cancer detection at the conference of WP5 to be held in Budapest.

“In cancer control it is crucial that there’s a definite shift towards primary prevention,” says CSF strategy director Satu Lipponen. “This is most effective way to cut the cancer burden.”

Lipponen leads Work Package 5, along with expert members Dr Clarissa Bingham of the CSF and Dr Ahti Anttila of the Finnish Cancer Registry, and explains that the work involves early diagnosis, population-based cancer screening programmes, and health promotion.

“We are exploring how to make cancer prevention and health promotion more attractive at national and regional levels,” says Lipponen.

A special aim of the Joint Action is to provide a stronger impetus to the European Code Against Cancer with the expertise of the International Agency for Research on Cancer. The European Code focuses on a 12-point list of actions individuals can take to prevent cancer.

One challenge is to make the science of the recommendations better known among policy makers so that effects of national policies can be better measured, something that Lipponen points out is needed in Finland too, where, for example, the carcinogenicity information of alcohol is often not adequately understood. (1)

The Joint Action is concerned with improving policy making on cancer control both at EU and national level, and clearly policy makers are in an important position in advancing cancer control.

The National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) is the governmental body overseeing Finnish involvement in the iPAAC Joint Action, and the key state agency working on health promotion advocacy nationally and at community level.

THL research professor Pekka Jousilahti welcomes the emphasis the iPAAC Joint Action places on prevention in cancer control. “This is an area where far more needs to be done, where there is always new information that individuals can use in making informed choices about their health, and where policy makers need solid recommendations to build on in practical policy areas.”

Source:
(1) European Code against cancer awareness survey 2017, Association of European Cancer Leagues (ECL)
https://www.europeancancerleagues.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/ECAC-awareness-survey-2017.pdf

Additional information:

Satu Lipponen, Director, Strategy and Foresight, Cancer Society of Finland, satu.lipponen@cancer.fi, tel. +358 50 563 4558