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Covid-19 could cause 35,000 excess cancer deaths



The Covid-19 pandemic could lead to 35,000 extra cancer deaths in the UK because of diagnosis and treatment delays, research has suggested.  

There could be at least 7,000 additional deaths within 12 months, but as many as 35,000 in a worst-case scenario, scientists have calculated, sharing the results with the BBC’s Panorama programme.

The study by DATA-CAN, the Health Care Research Hub (HRD UK) for Cancer, estimated that up to two million routine breast, bowel and cervical cancer screenings could have been missed already because of the Covid-19 crisis.      

NHS England has told the BBC that it is working as fast as it can to restore services by the end of the year. 

The research looked at data from eight hospital trusts in the UK, modelling different outcomes depending on how long services took return to normal.  

If delays continue at a worst-case scenario, there could be up to 35,000 additional cancer deaths within a year, DATA-CAN concluded.

The research hub’s scientific lead Professor Mark Lawler told the Panorama programme: ‘Anecdotally, people have been telling us there were problems, but I think the critical thing was being able to actually have routine data from hospital trusts.’  

NHS England’s national clinical director for cancer Peter Johnson said: ‘We’re working as fast as we can to put the services back together again, to restore the capacity and indeed to build more, so that we can deal with the people that have not been diagnosed during the time when the services have been running below 100%.’ 

Last week, it was announced that Nightingale Hospitals are to be converted into cancer testing centres to tackle the backlog of potential cases. 

NHS England data last month revealed that the number of urgent cancer referrals made by GPs in April declined by 60% year on year