Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2020 Sep 17:canprevres.0447.2020. doi: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-20-0447. Online ahead of print.
Screening for cancer is a proven and recommended approach to prevent deaths from cancer; screening can locate precursor lesions and/or cancer at early stages when it is potentially curable. Racial and ethnic minorities and other medically-underserved populations exhibit lower uptake of cancer screening than non-minorities in the United States. The COVID-19 pandemic, which disproportionately affected minority communities, has curtailed preventive services including cancer screening in order to preserve personal protective equipment and prevent spread of infection. While there is evidence for a rebound from the pandemic-driven reduction in cancer screening nationally, the return may not be even across all populations, with minority population screening that was already behind becoming further behind as a result of the community ravages from COVID-19. Fear of contracting COVID-19, limited access to safety-net clinics, and personal financial, employment, and transportation issues are concerns that are intensified in medically-underserved communities. Prolonged delays in cancer screening will increase cancer in the overall population from pre-COVID-19 trajectories, and elevate the cancer disparity in minority populations. Knowing the overall benefit of cancer screening versus the risk of acquiring COVID-19, utilizing at-home screening tests, and keeping the COVID-19-induced delay in screening to a minimum might slow the growth of disparity.