Cancer and coronavirus: A deadly concoction, studies find

By | June 1, 2020

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Cancer patients infected with COVID-19 had a much higher risk of dying within a month than non-cancerous COVID-19 patients, recent studies say.

In a study published May 28 in The Lancet, 50 percent of 928 cancer patients and survivors with COVID-19 were hospitalized and 13 percent died. The most common malignancies were breast cancer and prostate cancer.

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According to data from Johns Hopkins University, the majority of the 10 countries most affected by coroanvirus have death rates less than 13 percent. The US has a COVID-related mortality rate of 5.8 percent, whereas countries like Belgium, France and Italy have death rates exceeding 14 percent.

Another study in The Lancet of cancer patients facing COVID-19 found an even higher death rate at 28 percent, increasing with age and underlying health problems like cardiovascular disease and hypertension.

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The study also found 22 percent of patients had interrupted anticancer treatment due to the pandemic.

What do these findings mean for more than a million Americans diagnosed with cancer each year?

Data from the American Cancer Society says there will be an estimated 1.8 million new cancer diagnoses and more than 600,000 cancer deaths in the US in 2020. The number of cancer survivors in the U.S. will approach 18 million this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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Dr. Jeremy Warner, a Vanderbilt University data scientist who led the wider study, told the Associated Press that the “results show the wisdom of measures that many hospitals have taken to delay or modify care for many cancer patients, and the need for people treated in the past to be extra careful now.”

“If they don’t have COVID-19, they want to do anything they can to avoid getting it,” Warner told AP.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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