More than three years after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, scientists are for the first time establishing a link between the development of a severe form of the disease and undiagnosed cancer. A Franco-Swiss study, published in the journal Scientific Reports on May 30, sought to determine whether patients who have developed a severe form of Covid-19 are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer a few months later.
Scientists from Epi-Phare (a scientific interest group formed by the National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products and the National Health Insurance Fund), the Geneva Institute of Global Health and from the University of Geneva, compared the data of 41,302 people hospitalized in intensive care due to Covid-19 and 713,670 control people, of the same age, same sex and same department, but not hospitalized for Covid-19.
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As a result, patients hospitalized for a severe form of Covid-19 have a 31% increased risk of being diagnosed with cancer in the following months. 2.2% of them were diagnosed with cancer in the following months, compared to 1.5% for the other controls. The risk is higher for cancers of the kidney, colon, lungs or hematological (blood cancer).
While the study does not claim that there is a “causal effect” between severe Covid-19 infection and cancer, a severe form “could represent an undiagnosed cancer marker. The state of immunosuppression may perhaps hide an underlying cancer not yet detected, ”explained Pr Mahmoud Zureik, director of Epi-Phare in Le Quotidien du Médecin . And the risk of cancer would be higher in women under 60 than men, says the study.
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However, Pr Mahmoud Zureik considers that it is "premature" to recommend systematic screening for cancer in these patients. It therefore simply calls for more monitoring. “Patients discharged from intensive care or intensive care after severe Covid-19 already have an increased risk of mortality. It is therefore useful to monitor them, especially since they are exposed to sequelae, in particular pulmonary, ”he underlined. The researcher added that “other research is also to be carried out to better specify the locations of cancer concerned and to relate the trio of immunosuppression, Covid-19 and diseases linked to immunosuppression, including cancers”.