The incidence of cancer at the time of COVID-19 in Northern Italy

Recent studies have assessed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and related control measures on the number of new cancer diagnoses. The aim of this work was to evaluate the real impact of the lockdown on new cancer diagnoses in 2020. To compare the incidence of tumors in 2020 with that in 2019, we used data collected by the Reggio Emilia Cancer Registry. We reported the variations (number of cases and % values) of all tumors and of the main sites by sex and period of lockdown. We calculated the standardized incidence and mortality rate of the last twenty years (2001-2020) for all tumor sites and the main sites (breast, colorectal, lung and prostate) by sex. In 2020, 4,031 cases of cancer were recorded, 669 fewer than in 2019 (-14.2%). The sites that recorded the largest decline compared to 2019 were: skin (non-melanoma) (-281 cases), prostate (-110 cases), melanoma and bladder (-5 cases) and colorectal (-38 cases). The incidence trend in males decreased from 491.74 cases per 100,000 p/y in 2001 to 471.58 in 2019 and dropped to 386.59 in 2020. Mortality also decreased over the years from 250.8 cases per 100,000 p/y in 2001 to 164.4 cases in 2019 and 161.9 in 2020. In women, the incidence remained almost constant over the years, whereas there was a decline in mortality. The decrease in cancers recorded, especially during the lockdown, has been widely reported in the literature, but the data usually only cover the months leading up to September 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused delays in the diagnosis of new cancers. However, it is necessary to document with data the real impact the pandemic has had on new diagnoses, taking into account the tumor site, gender, the presence of cancer screening, and in general the organization of healthcare of the territory in question.

The pandemic has caused a decline in new cancer diagnoses but there is a strong variability linked to sex, tumor site and health organization.

Table of Content: Vol. 2 (No. 2) 2022 June

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