Cancer deaths could rise by at least 20% over the next 12 months

Due to Covid-19, it has been forecasted that cancer deaths could rise by 20% over the next 12 months for those with newly diagnosed conditions.

The statistic has come from a UCL study with DATA-CAN, which is the Health Data Research Hub for Cancer in the UK.

The statistical analysis which was published on the 29th April, is the first analysis to focus on the impact of the mortality rates of those with cancer.

The analysis uses data from the health records of over 3.5 million patients.

Pre-Covid-19, 31,354 patients newly diagnosed with cancer would die within a year according to the study’s findings.

During and post-Covid-19, the study estimates that figure could rise by 6,270.

Taking into consideration those with existing cancer diagnosis (not newly diagnosed), that figure could rise to 17,915 additional deaths.

The analysis was made using recent weekly data from major cancer centres in the UK.

There has been a 76% decrease in urgent referrals from GPs and a 60% decrease in chemotherapy appointments – this is compared to pre-Covid-19 statistics.

A similar trend has been seen in the US.

It is said that the research provides ‘a comprehensive picture’ of those patients living with cancer are also affected by long-term, often treatable conditions.

Senior author Professor Harry Hemingway, Director, UCL Institute of Health Informatics, added:

“The overall impact of the COVID-19 emergency on deaths in cancer patients could be substantial.

“There are many factors operating here including rapid changes to diagnosis and treatment protocols, social distancing measures, changes in people’s behaviour in seeking medical attention and the economic impact of COVID-19, as well as deaths due to COVID-19 infection.”

Professor Mark Lawler, Queen’s University Belfast and Scientific Lead DATA-CAN, said:

“We applied our model to new cancers in the UK and the US, using publicly available data.

“The results are concerning.

“We believe countries need to rapidly understand how the emergency is affecting cancer outcomes, otherwise we risk adding cancer and other underlying health conditions to the escalating death toll of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Lead author, Dr Alvina Lai, UCL Institute of Health Informatics, said:

“Our findings demonstrate the serious potential for unintended consequences of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which may negatively impact on patients with cancer and other underlying health conditions.

“It is vital that these patients are recognised as being vulnerable and that their care is managed appropriately”.

Dr Charlie Davie, DATA-CAN Hub Director, said:

“Our study highlights the value of bringing together data from multiple sources to enable researchers, health systems and policy makers to improve cancer management for our patients, both during and after this pandemic.”

Pete Wheatstone, a patient and a member of the Public and Patient Involvement and Engagement group of DATA-CAN added:

“This research demonstrates the value to cancer patients, the wider public and decision-makers when trusted professionals use our patient data to help decide the best course of action.

“It also highlights the urgent need to be able to analyse these data quickly and accurately to inform and influence current events”