Observed Rates of Cancer Diagnoses Lower Than Expected in Pandemic

Rate of all-sites cancer incidence was 28.6 percent lower than expected during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic response
Observed Rates of Cancer Diagnoses Lower Than Expected in Pandemic
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Medically Reviewed By:
Meeta Shah, M.D.

MONDAY, Feb. 26, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- During the COVID-19 pandemic, cancer diagnoses were lower than expected, according to a study published online Feb. 22 in JAMA Oncology.

Todd Burus, from the Markey Cancer Center at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, and colleagues conducted a population-based cross-sectional analysis of cancer incidence trends using data on cases of invasive cancer diagnosis to assess the observed and expected cancer rate trends for March through December 2020.

A total of 1,297,874 cancer cases reported from March 1 through Dec. 31, 2020, were included in the study, with an age-adjusted incidence rate of 326.5 cases per 100,000 population. The researchers found that during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic response (March to May 2020), the observed rates of all-sites cancer incidence were 28.6 percent lower than expected, and observed rates were 6.3 and 13.0 percent lower in June to December 2020 and during the first 10 months of the pandemic, respectively. During that time frame, there were potentially 134,395 undiagnosed cancers. The largest number of potentially missed cases was seen for prostate cancer, followed by breast (female) and lung cancer (22,950; 16,870; and 16,333 cancers, respectively). Compared with the expected rate, there was a total rate reduction of 13.9 percent in screenable cancers. After the first three months of the pandemic, the rate of female breast cancer showed evidence of recovery to previous trends, but for colorectal, cervical, and lung cancers, levels remained low.

"These findings emphasize the need to consider how future disaster planning could affect cancer detection," the authors write.

One author disclosed ties to the biopharmaceutical industry.

Abstract/Full Text

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