Did the COVID-19 Pandemic Affect the Number of Diagnosed Skin Cancers?
In 2020, lower-than-expected proportion of melanomas diagnosed at stages 0 to IA; higher-than-expected percent diagnosed at stages IIC, III, IV
By Dermsquared Editorial Team | September 01, 2021
The number of new skin cancers diagnosed during 2020 was lower than expected, according to a research letter published in the September issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
Aimilios Lallas, Ph.D., from Aristotle University in Thessaloniki, Greece, and colleagues retrieved data from an institutional skin cancer registry in Northern Greece to examine the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on skin cancer diagnoses. The observed and expected numbers of new melanomas, basal cell carcinomas, and squamous cell carcinomas were compared in 2020; the expected incidence was calculated as the mean of 2016 to 2019, assuming incidence would remain stable through 2020.
The researchers found that the total number of new skin cancers was 30.1 percent lower than expected, with reductions of 36.4, 22.3, and 44.8 percent for melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma, respectively. At the time of diagnosis in 2020, melanoma and basal cell carcinoma patients were significantly younger than those in previous years; the trend was similar for patients with squamous cell carcinoma. A higher-than-expected female representation was observed. The proportion of melanomas diagnosed at stages 0 to IA was substantially lower than expected, while a significantly higher-than-expected percentage was diagnosed at stages IIC, III, and IV. Patients with a history of melanoma had a slightly higher-than-expected number of new melanomas diagnosed.
"Our results indicate that skin cancer diagnosis is delayed because of COVID-19-related restrictions," the authors write. "Future studies should assess whether this affects melanoma-related morbidity and mortality."