Icelandic Cancer Society

The Icelandic Cancer Society was established on the 27th of June 1951, now being an association of 24 local voluntary cancer divisions, chapters, in various parts of the country and six voluntary organizations of former cancer patients.

The governing body of the Icelandic Cancer Society is the Council with a membership of seven persons elected by delegates at the Annual General Meeting. The Council appoints several committees made up of experts in the various fields and these act as advisory bodies.  

The President of the Icelandic Cancer Society is now Jakob Johannsson. The Director is Ragnheidur Haraldsdottir (

The Icelandic Cancer Society is one of five members of the Nordic Cancer Union (NCU), since 1952 a member of International Union Against Cancer (UICC) and also an active member of Association of European Cancer Leagues (ECL).


Basic Information (2008):

Address: Skogarhlid 8, P.O.Box 5420, IS-125 Reykjavik, Iceland
Tel.:+354 540 1900, fax: +354 540 1910,

The Icelandic Cancer society is a nation-wide, voluntary organization established 56 years ago, with four main cornerstones directing its policy and activities but with different emphasis at each given point in time.

1. To promote knowledge and education about cancer and cancer prevention.
2. To support cancer research e.g. by collecting and analyzing relevant data.
3. To promote screening for cancer.
4. To support progress in the treatment and care of cancer patients.

1. Generating and distributing general information about cancer to the public has always been on the agenda, but the society´s former successful role in tobacco prevention has now largely been taken over by the school system and a new public health institute. A regular successful campaign is run to warn young people against sun exposure and solaria.

2. Our cancer society has run a productive molecular and cell biology research laboratory for about twenty years that has now been taken over by the University of Iceland but the laboratory remains on our premises until the end of this year. The Icelandic Cancer Registry has been run under the auspices of the society for 53 years, a valuable population based data bank on cancer as well as an active research unit with an emphasis on the etiology of cancer and effectiveness of screening. There has been good co-operation between the research laboratory and the cancer registry and the registry is a member of ANCR where it has enjoyed fruitful co-operation over the years as well as on an international level. Furthermore, our cancer society has some research funds supporting cancer research in Iceland outside as well as inside our society.

3. Our cancer society has organized and run nation-wide screening programs, for cervical cancer (20-69 years) since 1964, resulting in a marked decrease in incidence and death from the disease and for breast cancer with mammography (40-69 years) from 1987. Although the incidence of breast cancer keeps on rising, the death rate is going down, with >90% survival after 5 years. Women older than 69 years are welcome but not specially invited. We are in the process of modernizing our equipment, fundraising for 5 new digital mammography units together with necessary working tools. This is a demanding task for our society, involving changes in work schedules and major alterations to the interior design of the Cancer Detection Clinic. This enterprise has dominated our activities during the last year and will continue to do so for the coming months. We will hopefully start regular screening with the new equipment in August 2008. The Cancer Detection Clinic continues participation in an international research program on vaccination against HPV and cervical cancer (Gardasil). The minister of health has declared that screening for colon cancer with F.O.B. will be starting next year as a nation-wide program for defined age-groups and our society will be participating actively.

4. Patient support groups are members of our cancer society. They are now about 17 around the country for different types of cancer or age-groups and the society supports them in various ways. The society´s hospice-based Home Service for cancer patients ran for twenty years with nurses and doctors taking care of people who could and wanted to stay at home. This has now been transferred to the University hospital for closer co-operation with the palliative care unit. The society has bought 8 flats in the same house in Reykjavik with other NGO´s where cancer patients from the countryside can stay with their families when they come for treatment at the University hospital. The cancer society, which is located very near the University hospital, has recently established on its premises a day care unit modeled on the Scottish Maggie´s centres. There, cancer patients and their next of kin, can walk in for information and psychosocial support. This brings together all our patient support activities and is also an improved base for our cancer patient support groups.

Structure and finance. The Icelandic Cancer Society has about 30 divisions, 23 regional divisions and 8 patient support groups. Seven of the regional divisions have local service centers with a part-time employee, partly supported by the society. The patient support groups then have affiliates out in the countryside that do not function as independent divisions but are linked to the regional chapter. At the same time the cancer society, with about 85 employees, can be regarded as an institution with multiple functions, playing an important role in the Icelandic health service. The society´s activities are primarily financed by donations, legacies, income from sale of lottery tickets, remembrance cards and logos together with other fund-raising activities such as door-to-door collection campaigns. We keep on introducing new approaches in fund-raising, increasingly by co-operation with the business and financial world. The Pink ribbon campaign in October is becoming more and more important and we have recently started having a Pink Gala Dinner during October, the last one bringing in about 170.000 Euros. Another major source of income is an agreement with the health authorities financing the Cancer Detection Clinic responsible for cervical and breast cancer screening as well as partial official support for the Cancer Registry. The society´s total income in 2007 was 7.760.000 Euros.

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