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Finnish sauna bathing does not increase or decrease the risk of cancer in men: A prospective cohort study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)184-191
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Journal of Cancer
Early online date4 Oct 2019
DateAccepted/In press - 26 Aug 2019
DateE-pub ahead of print - 4 Oct 2019
DatePublished (current) - 1 Nov 2019


Evidence suggests that heat therapy can be used to prevent and treat cancer; anecdotal reports suggest passive heat therapies may increase cancer risk. Finnish sauna bathing has been linked to a reduced risk of chronic diseases, but its association with cancer risk is unknown. We aimed to assess the prospective association between frequency of sauna bathing and the risk of all-cause and site-specific cancers using the Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease prospective cohort.

Baseline sauna bathing habits were assessed in 2,173 men aged 42-61 years with no history of cancer. Hazard ratios (HRs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for cancer were calculated using Cox proportional hazard models. We corrected for within-person variability in sauna bathing habits using data from repeat assessments taken 11 years apart.

During a median follow-up of 24.3 years, 588 (27.1%) all-cause cancer cases were recorded. The age-adjusted regression dilution ratio of sauna bathing frequency was 0.69 (0.62 to 0.76). In multivariable-adjusted analyses, the HRs 95% (CIs) of all-cause cancer were 0.92 (0.76 to 1.11) and 0.92 (0.66 to 1.27) for men who had 2-3 and ≥ 4 sauna sessions per week respectively compared with men who had ≤ 1 sauna session per week. The non-significant findings were consistent for prostate, gastrointestinal, and lung cancers on multivariate adjustment.

Frequent Finnish sauna bathing is not associated with the risk of cancer in a middle-aged male Caucasian population. Further studies are required to confirm or refute these findings, particularly in women and other age groups.

    Research areas

  • Cancer, Cohort study, Finnish sauna, Gastrointestinal cancer, Lung cancer, Prostate cancer



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    Embargo ends: 4/10/20

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    Licence: CC BY-NC-ND


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