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Incidence rates for most local and regional stage cancers declined during first year of COVID-19, new research shows

Researchers also found declines highest in racial and ethnic populations.

A new report led by researchers at ACS shows, during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, cancer incidence rates declined for almost all cancer types examined. The declines were largely driven by local and regional stage disease, however, cancer incidence rates for distant stage or the most advanced type of disease decreased for just six of the 22 cancer types examined. The study is published in the International Journal of Cancer.

“Cancer incidence rates during 2020 deviated from pre-pandemic patterns, likely due to the suspension of health care for both cancer and non-cancer related medical care,” said Elizabeth Schafer, associate scientist, health equity science at the American Cancer Society and lead author of the study. “These findings have given us more evidence of the impact of the pandemic on cancer incidence rates by stage at diagnosis and race and ethnicity.”

“Whether these declines will lead to increases in advanced-stage disease and mortality rates remains to be investigated by studying the incidence and mortality trends with additional data years,” added Schafer. “Nevertheless, the findings reinforce the importance of strengthening the return to preventive care campaigns and outreach for detecting cancers at early and more treatable stages.”

Dr. Ahmedin Jemal is senior author of the paper. Other ACS authors include Dr. Farhad IslamiDr. Xuesong HanDr. Leticia NogueiraDr. Nikita Sandeep WagleDr. Robin Yabroff, and Dr. Hyuna Sung.

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