Weekly prostate cancer screening rates declined by as much as 43% during the first 2 months of the COVID-19 pandemic — roughly March through April 2020 — compared with January-February 2020, according to data presented during the AUA2021 Virtual Experience.

The decline was the smallest of the 5 cancers studied. Weekly screening rates for lung, colon, breast, and cervical declined by as much as 92%, 88%, 83%, and 76%, respectively, first author Daniel Pelzman, MD, of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and colleagues reported in a poster presentation.

After 2 months, rates began to normalize, and some cancers — breast and cervical cancer —appeared to have higher-than-expected rebounds. “The reasons for this are not known but may reflect a period of ‘catching up’ after screenings were delayed for many Americans,” they wrote. Although screening encounters decreased, they “quickly and encouragingly” recovered by the end of summer 2020.

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Screening rates remain at or above previous rates even throughout additional waves of the pandemic (November-December 2020), the investigators reported.

For their study, Dr Pelzman’s team used data from the COVID-19 Research Database, consortium of data sources and institutions that provide research and real-world data, as well as Healthjump, a dataset containing outpatient encounter information for more than 40 million Americans.

Previous studies also have documented a decrease in cancer screenings early in the pandemic. For example, Ronald C. Chen, MD, MPH, of the University of Kansas in Kansas City, and colleagues found that screening rates for prostate, breast, and colorectal cancer in the US dropped sharply during March through May 2020 compared with the same period in 2019, according to a paper published in JAMA Oncology.

During March, April, and May 2020, the rates per 100,000 enrollees in Medicare Advantage or commercial insurance plans decreased by 27.4%, 63.4%, and 35.0%, respectively, for prostate cancer; 41.8%, 90.8%, and 52.6% for breast cancer; and 33.3%, 79.3%, and 57.7% for colorectal cancer, the investigators reported.


Pelzman D, Lin J, Pere M, et al. Trends in cancer screening nationwide during the COVID-19 pandemic. Presented at: AUA2021 Virtual Experience held September 10-13, 2021. Abstract MP19-17.

Chen RC, Haynes K, Du S, Barron J, Katz AJ. Association of cancer screening deficit in the United States with the COVID-19 pandemicJAMA Oncol. Published online April 29, 2021. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2021.0884

This article originally appeared on Renal and Urology News