Cancer diagnoses fell drastically in pandemic's first year, study finds

Diagnoses for eight common types of cancer fell significantly during the first year of the pandemic, according to a study published Aug. 31 in JAMA Network Open. 

Researchers from Quest Diagnostics used deidentified laboratory data from 799,496 patients to analyze new diagnoses for eight common types of cancer: breast, colorectal, lung, pancreatic, cervical, gastric, esophageal and prostate. Samples were collected between January 2019 and March 2021. 

The research builds on a previous study from Quest, which found new diagnoses for six cancers fell 46.4 percent from March 1 to April 18, 2020, compared to rates seen before the pandemic. The new research builds on this work, showing the monthly rate of new cancer diagnoses fell:

  • 29.8 percent between March and May 2020
  • 9.6 percent between June and October 2020
  • 19.1 percent between November 2020 and March 2021

The findings suggest many people whose cancer could have been detected in the first 13 months of the pandemic did not receive preventive care or have routine screenings, even after travel and healthcare restrictions loosened in summer 2020. 

Researchers said they could not assess how demographic factors, such as race/ethnicity or care access, may be linked to delayed cancer care, a potential limitation of the study. 

To view the full study, click here.

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