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More than 134,000 cancers might have gone undiagnosed during the first 10 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study of national trends in cancer incidence.

Annual cancer incidence fell almost 30% short of the expected rate from March through December 2020. The difference represented potentially 134,395 undiagnosed cancers during that period. Diagnosis of early- and late-stage cancers declined. Prostate, breast, and lung cancers accounted for the most potential missed cases. Overall, rates of "screenable" cancers decreased by 13.9% versus expected rates.

Rates of breast cancer began returning to norms after the first 3 months of the pandemic, but the incidence of colorectal, cervical, and lung cancers remained low, reported Krystle A. Lang Kuhs, PhD, MPH, of the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center in Lexington, and co-authors in JAMA Oncology.

"To our knowledge, this is the first study to offer a nationwide analysis using U.S. cancer registry data on the cancer case deficit experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020," the authors wrote. "The findings from this analysis can inform the U.S. healthcare system as decisions are made to recover the deficit through focused cancer screening and detection. These findings may also assist with planning for any future disruptions that would otherwise affect the timeliness of cancer diagnosis."

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