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Study shows more deaths with cancer as contributing cause during first year of pandemic

​Ongoing monitoring of long-term cancer-related mortality trends is warranted.

In a new study, American Cancer Society researchers discovered deaths with cancer as the underlying or primary cause decreased in the United States during the first year of the pandemic in 2020 compared to 2019, continuing the decreasing trend from prior years. In contrast, mortality rates with cancer as a contributing cause were higher in 2020 compared to 2019, reversing the decreasing trend from prior years. The study was published in the Journal Oncology Practice (JOP).

“Individuals living with cancer were at higher risk of COVID-19 infection and experiencing more severe symptoms due to their health conditions and treatment-related immune suppression,” said Jingxuan Zhao, senior associate scientist, health services research at the American Cancer Society and lead researcher on the study. “The stay-at-home orders and the discontinuation of non-emergency treatment to limit hospital capacity and reduce transmission at the beginning of the pandemic may have resulted in delayed cancer screenings, diagnoses, and treatments, and possibly contributed to increased mortality.”

“More research is needed to better understand the reasons for such an increase in deaths with cancer as a contributing cause,” Zhao said in a recent announcement. “We need to continue monitoring the long-term cancer-related mortality trends and how the COVID-19 pandemic affected cancer diagnosis and receipt of care.”

Other ACS authors participating in this study include: Dr. Xuesong HanDr. Zhiyuan ZhengDr. Leticia NogueiraDr. Farhad IslamiDr. Ahmedin Jemal, and Dr. Robin Yabroff

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