Coronavirus could cause 35,000 extra cancer deaths

New research suggests that ongoing delays to cancer diagnosis and treatment due to coronavirus could cause up to 35,000 excess deaths in the UK within a year.

Representing a worst-case scenario, the findings claim that up to  two million routine breast, bowel and cervical cancer screenings may have been missed as a result of the pandemic, with urgent referrals and treatments having also been delayed or cancelled.

The study, conducted by DATA-CAN, the Health Care Research Hub (HDR UK) for Cancer, modelled different outcomes depending on how long services take to get back to normal levels. It argues that in a worst-case scenario there could be 35,000 additional cancer deaths within a year if delays continue.

The most recent HDR UK research, shared with BBC Panorama, show that the rates of urgent cancer referrals were 45 per cent below pre-emergency levels at the end of May.

Speaking to BBC Panorama, Mark Lawler, Scientific Lead of DATA-CAN, said: "Initial data that we got was very worrying to us. Anecdotally, people have been telling us there were problems, but I think the critical thing was being able to actually have routine data from hospital trusts. Obviously scientists like to be right in terms of their analysis, but I hope I'm wrong in relation to that.”