During the COVID-19 pandemic 20 000 prostate cancer diagnoses were missed in England.

Publication date: Feb 27, 2024

To investigate the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on prostate cancer incidence, prevalence, and mortality in England. With the approval of NHS England and using the OpenSAFELY-TPP dataset of 24 million patients, we undertook a cohort study of men diagnosed with prostate cancer. We visualised monthly rates in prostate cancer incidence, prevalence, and mortality per 100 000 adult men from January 2015 to July 2023. To assess the effect of the pandemic, we used generalised linear models and the pre-pandemic data to predict the expected rates from March 2020 as if the pandemic had not occurred. The 95% confidence intervals (CIs) of the predicted values were used to estimate the significance of the difference between the predicted and observed rates. In 2020, there was a drop in recorded incidence by 4772 (31%) cases (15 550 vs 20 322; 95% CI 19 241-21 403). In 2021, the incidence started to recover, and the drop was 3148 cases (18%, 17 950 vs 21 098; 95% CI 19 740-22 456). By 2022, the incidence returned to the levels that would be expected. During the pandemic, the age at diagnosis shifted towards older men. In 2020, the average age was 71. 6 (95% CI 71. 5-71. 8) years, in 2021 it was 71. 8 (95% CI 71. 7-72. 0) years as compared to 71. 3 (95% CI 71. 1-71. 4) years in 2019. Given that our dataset represents 40% of the population, we estimate that proportionally the pandemic led to 20 000 missed prostate cancer diagnoses in England alone. The increase in incidence recorded in 2023 was not enough to account for the missed cases. The prevalence of prostate cancer remained lower throughout the pandemic than expected. As the recovery efforts continue, healthcare should focus on finding the men who were affected. The research should focus on investigating the potential harms to men diagnosed at older age.

Concepts Keywords
24million COVID-19
Cancer missed diagnosis
July prostate cancer cohort
prostate cancer diagnosis
prostate cancer incidence
prostate cancer prevalence


Type Source Name
disease MESH COVID-19 pandemic
disease MESH prostate cancer
pathway KEGG Prostate cancer
disease VO monthly
disease VO population
disease MESH missed diagnosis

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