Cancer screenings decreased by approximately 50% in 2020, compared with the pre-pandemic period, according to a meta-analysis published in JAMA Oncology.
Data from North and South America, Europe, and Asia showed a 47% reduction in breast cancer screenings, a 45% reduction in colorectal cancer screenings, and a 52% reduction in cervical cancer screenings from the pre-pandemic period.
The meta-analysis included 39 publications of observational studies and data from cancer registries that were published between January 1, 2020, and December 12, 2021.
The publications included information on breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer screening before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic period was January 2020 to October 2020.
The number of breast cancer screenings decreased by 46.7% during the pandemic period, compared with the pre-pandemic period.
The greatest reduction in breast cancer screenings occurred during April 2020 (-74.3%), but the number of screenings had returned to near pre-pandemic levels by June 2020 (-13.0%).
The greatest reduction in breast cancer screenings occurred in Europe (-67.7%), followed by South America (-51.1%), and North America (-44.6%).
The number of colorectal cancer screenings decreased by 44.9% during the pandemic period, compared with the pre-pandemic period.
As with breast cancer, the greatest reduction in colorectal cancer screenings occurred during April 2020 (-69.3%). The researchers noted a “partial recovery” in screenings from June to October 2020 (-23.4%).
The greatest reduction in colorectal cancer screenings occurred in Europe (-52.4%), followed by North America (-45.1%) and Asia (-34.6%).
The number of cervical cancer screenings decreased by 51.8% during the pandemic period, compared with the pre-pandemic period.
The greatest reduction in cervical cancer screenings occurred in March 2020 (-78.8%). The reduction was greater in South America (-62.4%) than in North America (-44.7%).
“COVID-19 pandemic measures were associated with widely reduced cancer screening services,” the researchers concluded. “Further investigation regarding cancer diagnosis and cancer treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic is required.”
Teglia F, Angelini M, Astolfi L, et al. Global association of COVID-19 pandemic measures with cancer screening. A systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Oncol. Published online July 7, 2022. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2022.2617