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Cancer deaths in England could rise by a fifth due to Covid-19, finds study

Cancer deaths in England may increase by at least 20% as a result of the Covid-19 emergency, a study has found.

The paper, from researchers at University College London (UCL) and the Health Data Research Hub for Cancer in the UK (DATA-CAN), said this comes as urgent GP referrals for cancer have declined by 76%.

It reached the conclusion by analysing recent weekly data from major cancer centres in the UK, and data from the health records of over 3.5m patients in England.

It also found a decline in chemotherapy appointments by 60% since before the Covid-19 outbreak.

The study estimates that before the pandemic 31,354 newly-diagnosed cancer patients would die within a year in England but now an additional 6,270 newly-diagnosed cancer patients could die.

When people currently living with cancer are considered, this number could rise to 17,915, the paper said.

The study also considered how cancer survival is impacted by other long-term health conditions, estimating that nearly eight out of 10 of the additional deaths in people with cancer will occur in people with one of more such conditions – including cardiovascular disease, hypertension, obesity and diabetes.

The paper, published as a pre-print, said: ‘We provide the first estimates of potential excessmortality among people with cancer and multimorbidity due tothe Covid-19 emergency and demonstrate dramatic changes in cancer services.

‘To better inform prioritisation of cancer careand guide policy change, there is an urgent need for weekly data on cause-specific excess mortality, cancer diagnosis and treatment provision and better intelligence on the use of effective treatments for comorbidities.’

Lead author Dr Alvina Lai, from the 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.’

The study comes as health secretary Matt Hancock has urged people to continue to seek help from their GP as normal if they have concerns about their health or the health of their children.

Earlier this week, Mr Hancock also announced that the Government would begin to ‘restore’ non-Covid NHS services, starting with urgent cancer and mental health services.


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