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Inactive cancer patients also at high risk of severe Covid illness: Study

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New York, Jan 21, 2021-
Patients with inactive cancer and not currently undergoing treatments also face a significantly higher risk of severe illness from Covid-19, a new study suggests.

The findings underscore the importance of Covid-19 mitigation, like social distancing and mask wearing, and vaccinations for all patients, not just those recently diagnosed or with active disease.

“Patients who have cancer need to be careful not to become exposed during this time,” said researcher Kara N. Maxwell, Assistant Professor at University of Pennsylvania in the US.

“That message has been out there, but these latest findings show us it’s not only for patients hospitalized or on treatment for their cancer. All oncology patients need to take significant precautions during the pandemic to protect themselves,” Maxwell added.

For the study, published in the JNCI Cancer Spectrum journal, the researchers analyzed the records of more than 4,800 patients who had been tested for Covid-19 and linked data from the health system’s electronic health records, to investigate the association between cancer status and Covid-19 outcomes.A

Of the 328 positive cases through June 2020, 67 (20.7 per cent) had a cancer diagnosis in their medical history (80.6 per cent with solid tumor malignancy and 73.1 per cent with inactive cancer).

Patients with Covid-19 — including both those with active cancer (18) and inactive cancer (49) — had higher rates of hospitalizations compared to non-cancer patients (55.2 per cent vs. 29 per cent), intensive care unit admissions (25.7 per cent vs. 11.7 per cent), and 30-day mortality (13.4 per cent vs. 1.6 per cent).

While worse outcomes were more strongly associated with those with active cancer, patients in remission also faced an overall increased risk of more severe disease compared to Covid-19 patients without cancer.

Studies show that cancer patients have a higher risk of Covid-19 complications, due in part to factors such as older age, higher smoking rates, comorbidities, frequent health care exposures, and the effects of cancer therapies.

These latest results also suggest the cancer itself and its impact on the body may play a role in exacerbating Covid-19 infections, the researchers said. (Agency)

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