Many cancer survivors have underlying conditions that can worsen COVID-19 infection, study finds

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About 56 percent of cancer survivors have an underlying medical condition associated with increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness, a study published Feb. 3 in Journal of the National Cancer Institute found. 

With data from the 2016-2018 National Health Interview Survey, researchers identified 6,411 cancer survivors and 77,748 adults without a cancer history. Most cancer survivors reported having at least one of the following underlying medical conditions associated with severe COVID-19 illness: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart diseases, diabetes, chronic kidney disease or obesity. Among adults with no cancer history, 41.6 percent had at least one of the underlying conditions. 

The study also showed nearly 23 percent of cancer survivors reported having two or more underlying conditions, compared to 10.8 percent among those without a cancer history. 

Obesity and heart disease were the two most commonly reported conditions among cancer survivors. Further, the prevalence of underlying conditions was higher among people with a history of kidney, liver and uterine cancer, as well as Black cancer survivors, people with low socioeconomic status and public insurance. 

“Findings highlight the need to protect survivors against COVID-19 transmission in healthcare facilities and prioritize cancer patients, survivors, caregivers and their healthcare providers in vaccine allocation,” the study concluded. 

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