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. 


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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.

Breast Cancer

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%). 

Colorectal Cancer

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%).

Cervical Cancer

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.”

Reference

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