Restrictions imposed in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, including nationwide stay-at-home orders, could have resulted in a surge of cancer deaths during the first year of the pandemic, a study has found.
The study, published in the American Society of Clinical Oncology Journal on April 11, found a spike in the number of deaths with cancer as a contributing cause in 2020.
“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,” said Jingxuan Zhao, senior associate scientist, health services research at the American Cancer Society and lead researcher on the study, according to an April 11 news release.
Individuals who have cancer were at higher risk of COVID-19 infection as well as experienced more severe symptoms due to their health conditions and treatment-related immune suppression, he added.
The study looked at deaths where cancer was listed as an underlying cause as well as deaths where cancer was listed as a contributing cause. Researchers found that the death rate with cancer as the underlying cause was lower in 2020 than in 2019, continuing a trend that began in 2015.
Read more: COVID Restrictions ‘Possibly Contributed’ to Higher Cancer Mortality: Study