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COVID-19-Associated Cancer Screening Deficit Quantified in U.S.

WEDNESDAY, May 5, 2021 -- The absolute deficit in screening associated with the COVID-19 pandemic is estimated at 3.9, 3.8, and 1.6 million for breast, colorectal, and prostate cancers, respectively, across the U.S. population, according to a study published online April 29 in JAMA Oncology.

Ronald C. Chen, M.D., M.P.H., from the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, and colleagues quantified the screening rates for breast, colorectal, and prostate cancers associated with the COVID-19 pandemic in a retrospective cohort study using the HealthCore Integrated Research Database.

The researchers found that in March through May 2020, there was a sharp decline in screening for all three cancers compared with 2019, with the sharpest decline in April (−90.8, −79.3, and −63.4 percent for breast, colorectal, and prostate cancer screening, respectively). By July, there was near complete recovery of monthly screening rates for breast and prostate cancers. Across the U.S. population, the absolute deficit in screening associated with the COVID-19 pandemic was estimated at 3.9, 3.8, and 1.6 million for breast, colorectal, and prostate cancer, respectively. There were geographic differences noted, with the sharpest declines in screening in the Northeast and a slower recovery for the West compared with the Midwest and South. The largest screening decline was seen in individuals in the highest socioeconomic status index quartile. In a multivariable analysis, the investigators found that telehealth use was associated with higher cancer screening rates.

"Public health efforts are needed to address the large cancer screening deficit, including increased use of screening modalities that do not require a procedure," the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the biopharmaceutical and medical insurance industries.

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