Recent Cancer Treatment Linked to Worse COVID-19 Outcomes

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Patients diagnosed with cancer more than one year ago and those not receiving active treatment are not at heightened risk for worse COVID-19 outcomes than patients without cancer, according to a study published online May 4 in PLOS ONE.

Youngran Kim, Ph.D., from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, and colleagues evaluated the association between COVID-19 outcomes and existing cancer-specific characteristics. The Optum® de-identified COVID-19 Electronic Health Record was used to identify 271,639 patients with COVID-19, 18,460 of whom had at least one cancer diagnosis: 8,034 had a history of cancer and 10,426 had newly diagnosed cancer within one year of COVID-19 infection.

The researchers found that cancer patients had higher risks for 30-day mortality (relative risk [RR], 1.07) and hospitalization (RR, 1.04). However, there were no significant differences in intensive care unit admission and ventilator use compared to non-cancer patients. There were higher risks for worse COVID-19 outcomes among those with a recent cancer diagnosis (RR for mortality, 1.17; RR for hospitalization, 1.10), with stronger associations seen for recent metastatic (stage IV), hematological, liver, and lung cancers. For those with a recent cancer diagnosis and COVID-19, mortality was associated with chemotherapy or radiation treatments within three months before COVID-19.

“Patients with a cancer diagnosis within one year and those receiving active treatment were more vulnerable to worse COVID-19 outcomes,” the authors write.

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