Study reveals Black, Hispanic cancer patients more likely to have Covid-19

Cancer patients who belong to the Black and Hispanic communities are more likely to be infected with coronavirus disease 2019, than white patients, according to findings from a study presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s (ASCO) Quality Care Symposium, which took place virtually on October 9-10, 2020.

Robert S Miller, Medical Director for CancerLinQ, said in an official release: “Patients with cancer are, unfortunately, faced with balancing cancer treatments with the risk of developing Covid-19. This research, while preliminary, will hopefully help patients and providers understand who’s most at risk of Covid-19 and plan cancer treatment accordingly.”

For the study, the researchers used data from ASCO’s CancerLinQ (CLQ) Discovery database.

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The researchers identified cancer patients, who had either a positive test for SARs-CoV-2 or a diagnosis code of Covid-19, from the electronic health records data of the CancerLinQ Discovery database. For comparison, the baseline cancer population in the same oncology practices was also assessed.

Between January 2020 and August 2020, researchers found 965 patients with cancer who had Covid-19, out of a total of 477,613 patients with cancer.

Patients with cancer who were Hispanic were found to be 5.25 times as likely as non-Hispanic patients to have Covid-19. Patients with cancer who were Black were also found to be 1.69 times as likely as white patients to have Covid-19.

In addition, patients who had hematologic cancers were 1.36 times as likely to have Covid-19 as patients with solid tumours.

The report, published in the Cancer Network, revealed that of those found to have Covid-19 in the study, 5.4 per cent (52/965) died, although with the data provided researchers were not able to determine a cause of death. The majority of deaths occurred in patients who were 70 years of age or older.

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“It’s important to gather data about people with cancer during this pandemic because it helps us to understand the risks to these different populations and potentially develop mitigation strategies,” Miller added.

The researchers noted that the elevated risk for Covid-19 among Blacks and Hispanics with cancer is particularly noteworthy, as these patients often suffer poorer cancer outcomes.

Additionally, the elevated risk among patients with hematologic cancers is also noteworthy, because these patients typically have compromised immune systems and are already susceptible to many other types of infection.

“All patients with cancer need to take precautions that are known to be effective, such as wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and getting flu shots, but this is particularly important for patients that are part of minority populations,” Miller further added.

The authors of the study now aim to determine whether other factors, such as stage at diagnosis, presence of certain malignancies, and certain types of cancer treatment, may also increase a patient’s risk for contracting Covid-19.

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