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Survival Outcomes in Lung Cancer in the United Kingdom During the COVID-19 Pandemic

By: Julia Fiederlein
Posted: Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Ajay Aggarwal, PhD, of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, United Kingdom, and colleagues conducted a national population-based modeling study to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cancer survival outcomes in several major tumor types. The findings, which were published in The Lancet Oncology, suggested lung cancer death rates may rise as a result. 

“Substantial increases in the number of avoidable cancer deaths in England are to be expected as a result of diagnostic delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom,” the investigators commented. “Urgent policy interventions are necessary to mitigate the indirect effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on patients with cancer.”

The investigators focused on data from the linked English National Health Service cancer registration and hospital administrative data sets on 29,305 patients diagnosed with lung cancer between January 1, 2012, and December 31, 2012. Patients with breast (n = 32,583), colorectal (n = 24,975), and esophageal (n = 6,744) cancers were also included. Analyses were performed to estimate the impact of diagnostic delays on survival, calculate the additional deaths attributed to cancer, and evaluate the total years of life lost compared with the data collected before the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a result of this pandemic, the number of deaths due to lung cancer were estimated to increase between 4.8% and 5.3% up to 5 years after diagnosis; this corresponded to between 1,235 and 1,372 additional deaths. The investigators also estimated an increase in deaths due to colorectal (between 15.3% and 16.6%), breast (between 7.9% and 9.6%), and esophageal (between 5.8% and 6.0%) cancers. Overall, about 3,291 to 3,621 avoidable deaths may be attributable to delays in cancer diagnosis. For these four tumor types, the total additional years of life lost were estimated to be between 59,204 and 63,229. 

Disclosure: The study authors reported no conflicts of interest. 



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