ASCO: Increase in Cancer-Related Death Seen During Pandemic

Cancer-related monthly mortality rate higher in April 2020 when health care capacity was most challenged

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MONDAY, June 6, 2022 (HealthDay News) -- From 2019 to 2020, there was an increase of 3.2 percent in cancer-related deaths, which was higher than the number of projected deaths, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, held from June 3 to 7 in Chicago.

Jingxuan Zhao, M.P.H., from the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, and colleagues used the U.S. 2019 to 2020 Multiple Cause of Death database to identify cancer-related deaths. Age-standardized cancer-related annual and monthly mortality rates were compared for January to December 2020 (pandemic) versus January to December 2019 (prepandemic), and the 2020 excess death rate was calculated.

The researchers found that in 2020, there were 686,054 cancer-related deaths, which was an annual increase of 3.2 percent compared with 2019 (664,888 deaths). Compared with the number of projected deaths for 2020 (666,286 deaths), there were 19,768 cancer-related excess deaths in 2020. There was a continuous decrease seen in the annual age-standardized cancer-related mortality rate per 100,000 person-years, from 173.7 in 2015 to 162.1 in 2019, followed by an increase to 164.1 in 2020. In April 2020, when health care capacity was most challenged, the cancer-related monthly mortality rate was higher, with subsequent declines in May and June 2020; higher mortality rates were seen each month from July to December 2020 compared with 2019.

"Ongoing evaluation of the spatial-temporal effects of the pandemic on cancer care and outcomes is warranted, especially in relation to patterns in vaccine uptake and COVID-19 hospitalization rates," the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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