Cancer Survivors at Higher Risk of Dying from Flu

by Colleen Fleiss on Dec 1 2020 9:28 PM

Cancer Survivors at Higher Risk of Dying from Flu
Cancer survivors are at an increased risk of hospitalization or die from seasonal influenza-even several years after their cancer diagnosis, revealed a study published in EClinicalMedicine.
London School of Hygiene & Tropical //Medicine (LSHTM) researchers analyzed medical records from 1990 to 2014 of more than 630,000 people in the UK, including over 100,000 survivors of a range of cancers.

The researchers compared the rates of influenza hospitalization and death between cancer survivors and the cancer-free population. They stated that the risk of influenza hospitalization was more than nine times higher in survivors from lymphomas, leukemia, and multiple myeloma than those with no prior cancer.

The absolute risks of developing severe flu were still relatively low, with about 1 in 1000 survivors of these types of cancer hospitalized with flu each year.

Survivors from other types of cancer also had more than double severe influenza risk outcomes for up to five years from diagnosis.

Cancer survivors were more likely to have other diseases linked to increased risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes, such as heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disease, and kidney disease.

According to Gov. UK, to date, 199,881 patients have been admitted to hospital in the UK with COVID-19, and there have been 63,873 COVID-19 recorded deaths.

Age is by far the most critical factor determining the absolute risk of developing severe COVID-19, with some studies estimating around 20% of people aged over 80 years old require hospitalization, compared with less than 1% of people aged under 30.

Findings from this new study - combined with other recent UK data, show that cancer survivors had an increased risk of dying from COVID-19, suggesting that cancer survivors should be included as a vulnerable group for COVID-19 and influenza management policies.

Helena Carreira, one of the lead authors of the study and Research Fellow at LSHTM, said: "We knew that people with cancer are at high risk of severe outcomes from these epidemic viruses soon after diagnosis, but we found that this increased risk also continues for several years after diagnosis. This means that vaccination and other preventative strategies are important considerations for the much broader population of longer-term cancer survivors."

Professor Krishnan Bhaskaran, senior author of the study and Professor of Statistical Epidemiology at LSHTM, said: "These findings have an immediate relevance as we enter the winter period: we have a flu vaccine available, and the likelihood of a COVID-19 vaccine in the near future. Understanding how vaccination should be prioritised to protect the most vulnerable will be crucial over the next few months."