Analysis of cancer types from the UK Coronavirus Cancer Monitoring Project (UKCCMP) suggests that patients with cancer may have different degrees of risk from COVID19 depending on their cancer type and age.  Further, patients with leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma may be more likely to catch COVID-19 and develop a severe disease when comparing patients with COVID19 with the overall cancer population.


The effect of cancer type

Researchers found that cancer type, as well as age and sex of the patient, influences the risk of catching COVID-19 and developing a more severe disease.

Patients with blood cancers, such as leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma, are more likely to get COVID-19 and require more intensive treatment.

Researchers have also developed COVID-19 risk estimates based on patient tumour type, age and sex. They are designed to help clinicians and cancer patients make more informed decisions when selecting the most suitable treatment.


Susceptibility to COVID-19

The UKCCMP researchers looked at how over 1,000 cancer patients who had been reported to have COVID-19 compare to the overall population of cancer patients in the UK. This is the first detailed analysis of how cancer type together with age and sex influences COVID-19 risk and outcomes.

Compared to the overall cancer population, the risk for patients with leukaemia was almost three times higher. The risk for myeloma was around two times higher and for lymphoma around 1.6 times higher.

However, patients with lung and prostate cancers seemed to be less likely to get COVID-19. While 13% of all cancers in the UK are lung cancers, only 10.7% of cancer patients with COVID-19 taking part in the study had lung tumours. The proportion of prostate cancers was 14.6% versus 11%.

Cancer patients who develop COVID-19 were also more likely to be men.


Likelihood of dying from COVID-19

Researchers also evaluated factors determining how likely cancer patients are to die from COVID-19.

This was influenced by age, with older patients less likely to recover. Recovery also appeared to be linked to gender with women more likely to recover than men.

Most cancer types didn’t have an effect on the risk of dying from COVID-19 when other clinical factors, age and sex where taken into account. However, this was not the case for leukaemia. Patients with leukaemia were at an increased risk of dying from COVID-19.


Closer look at blood cancers

A detailed analysis of the data from 227 blood cancer patients who developed COVID-19 was also carried out.

Overall, blood cancer patients seemed to have similar symptoms to other cancer patients. However, they were more likely to require high flow oxygen or ventilation and develop a more severe disease.

Unlike the overall cancer patient population, patients with blood cancers who had chemotherapy within four weeks of developing COVID-19, were at higher risk of dying from the infection.


The study was published in the Lancet Oncology.

You can also read the press release issued by the University of Birmingham and the University of Oxford.

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