People Receiving Recent Cancer Treatment Have Worse COVID-19 Outcomes, Study Shows

People Receiving Recent Cancer Treatment Have Worse COVID-19 Outcomes, Study Shows

People who received cancer treatment within three months of being diagnosed with COVID-19 had a higher risk of being hospitalized, being admitted to intensive care, or dying from COVID-19 than people who haven’t been diagnosed with cancer.
Jan 27, 2022.
 

People who received cancer treatment within three months of being diagnosed with COVID-19 had a higher risk of being hospitalized, being admitted to intensive care, or dying from COVID-19 than people who haven’t been diagnosed with cancer, according to a study.

The research was published in the January 2022 issue of the journal JAMA Oncology. Read the abstract of “Evaluation of COVID-19 Mortality and Adverse Outcomes in US Patients With or Without Cancer.”

 

About the study

Earlier research has shown that people diagnosed with cancer have a higher risk of getting COVID-19, as well as a higher risk of worse outcomes if they contract the virus. Still, most of these earlier studies were small.

The researchers of this study looked at the health records of 507,307 U.S. adults diagnosed with COVID-19 in 2020 to compare COVID-19 outcomes in people with and without cancer.

Of these 507,307 people:

  • 493,020 (97.2%) had not been diagnosed with cancer

  • 14,287 (2.8%) had been diagnosed with cancer

About 55% of the people in the study were women. Additionally, about 60% of the people in the study were white, about 15% were Black, and about 11.5% were Hispanic.

Overall, people diagnosed with COVID-19 and cancer were older than people who weren’t diagnosed with cancer:

  • half the people diagnosed with cancer were older than 67 and half were younger

  • half the people who weren’t diagnosed with cancer were older than 48 and half were younger

Of the 14,287 people diagnosed with both cancer and COVID-19:

  • 4,296 people had received cancer treatment within three months of being diagnosed with COVID-19

  • 9,991 had not received cancer treatment within three months of being diagnosed with COVID-19

The researchers defined cancer treatment as any treatment except surgery:

  • 592 people received radiation therapy

  • 1,634 people received chemotherapy

  • 806 people received immunotherapy

  • 195 people received chemotherapy and immunotherapy

  • 1,068 people received targeted therapy or hormonal therapy

  • 321 people received anti-lymphocyte or anti-CD20 therapy; these medicines are used to treat blood and lymph system cancers, such as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia

The researchers found that people diagnosed with cancer — particularly people who had received treatment within three months of being diagnosed with COVID-19 — were more likely to have worse COVID-19 outcomes than people without cancer.

COVID-19 hospitalization rates were:

  • 33.7% for people who received cancer treatment within three months of a COVID-19 diagnosis

  • 25.2% for people diagnosed with cancer who didn’t receive cancer treatment within three months of a COVID-19 diagnosis

  • 14.6% for people without cancer

Rates of people admitted to intensive care for COVID-19 were:

  • 12.3% for people who received cancer treatment within three months of a COVID-19 diagnosis

  • 7.7% for people diagnosed with cancer who didn’t receive cancer treatment within three months of a COVID-19 diagnosis

  • 3.3% for people without cancer

Rates of people placed on a ventilator because of COVID-19 were:

  • 6.8% for people who received cancer treatment within three months of a COVID-19 diagnosis

  • 3.7% for people diagnosed with cancer who didn’t receive cancer treatment within three months of a COVID-19 diagnosis

  • 2.2% for people without cancer

COVID-19 mortality rates were:

  • 7.8% for people who received cancer treatment within three months of a COVID-19 diagnosis

  • 5.0% for people diagnosed with cancer who didn’t receive cancer treatment within three months of a COVID-19 diagnosis

  • 1.6% for people without cancer

Among people diagnosed with both cancer and COVID-19, people diagnosed with metastatic solid tumors and hematologic malignant neoplasms had worse COVID-19 outcomes than people diagnosed with non-metastatic solid tumors.

A solid tumor is cancer that starts in an organ of the body, such as the breast or liver. A metastatic solid tumor is cancer that has spread from the original organ to distant parts of the body. Metastatic breast cancer, for example, often spreads to the bones or liver. Metastatic cancer is considered advanced-stage cancer. Non-metastatic cancer is cancer that stays in the organ in which it started. About 90% of adult cancers are solid tumors.

A hematologic malignant neoplasm is cancer that begins in blood-forming tissue, such as the bone marrow or in the cells of the immune system. Leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma are examples of hematologic malignant neoplasms.

 

What this means for you

While the results of this study are very troubling, they do help us understand who is at risk of serious complications from COVID-19.

Other research strongly suggests that people who have been diagnosed with cancer have a higher risk of getting COVID-19 than people who have not been diagnosed with cancer. This risk is higher for people who were recently diagnosed with cancer, especially Black people.

Knowing you have a higher risk of getting COVID-19 and having serious complications if you are infected with the virus can encourage you to stay vigilant about your safety and keep following COVID-19 recommendations. It’s extremely important that you:

  • practice physical distancing

  • wear a face mask that fits snugly when you go out of the house

  • wash your hands frequently and use hand sanitizer when you can’t wash your hands

  • avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces

  • clean and disinfect surfaces you touch frequently, including doorknobs, light switches, phones, keyboards, handles, and faucets

  • be alert for any COVID-19 symptoms, including loss of smell or taste, as well as fever, cough, and shortness of breath

  • talk to your doctor about COVID-19 vaccines and boosters, and get fully vaccinated as soon as you can if it’s recommended for you

Learn more about Coronavirus (COVID-19): What People With Breast Cancer Need to Know.

To talk with others about COVID-19 and breast cancer, join the conversation on All things COVID-19 or coronavirus in our community.

— Last updated on July 14, 2022, 4:20 PM

Reviewed by 1 medical adviser
 
Brian Wojciechowski, MD
Crozer Health System, Philadelphia area, PA
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