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Fewer new cancer cases reported in Baden-Württemberg in 2021 than before pandemic

No. 29 | 17/05/2023 | by Koh

For the second year in a row, fewer people were diagnosed with cancer in Baden-Württemberg than before the Corona pandemic: for 2021, the Baden-Württemberg Cancer Registry determined a lower rate of new cases than in 2019 by eight (women) and twelve percent (men). What seemingly sounds like good news actually makes it clear that the pandemic had an even greater impact on recorded cancer incidence in 2021 than in the previous year.

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Experts had warned of delays in cancer diagnosis and treatment early in the COVID 19 pandemic. One reason cited was the capacity overload at hospitals and other medical facilities. On the other hand, it was anticipated early on that many people would avoid screening examinations out of fear of infection.

The figures published by the Baden-Württemberg Cancer Registry last fall for the year 2020 clearly show that this fear has come true: According to these, there was a seven percent decrease in the number of new cancer cases recorded in 2020 - compared to the reference years 2018 and 2019.

Epidemiologists had assumed that the decline in incidence in 2020 would be followed by an increase in cancer diagnoses the following year. However, the current evaluations of the Baden-Württemberg Cancer Registry show the opposite: with a decrease of 8 percent in women as well as 12 percent in men compared to 2019, the pandemic had an even greater impact on cancer incidence in 2021 than in 2020. Cancer diagnoses decreased in all age groups, but especially in people aged 75 and older.

For the current evaluation, the four most common types of cancer - breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer and colorectal cancer - were taken into account. According to the report, the number of colorectal cancer cases decreased particularly dramatically, by 16 percent in men and 17 percent in women (compared to 2019). Lung cancer in men was diagnosed 9 percent less frequently, and there was no decrease in women compared to 2019. The 7 percent decrease in breast cancer diagnoses affected only women over age 75. For prostate cancer, incidence remained about the same in 2021 as in 2019.

"The continued drop in cancer incidence in 2021 means that cancer diagnoses were again missed or delayed. If these cancer cases are diagnosed at a later stage, the diseases are more advanced and presumably more often at a later stage that is more difficult to cure," says Volker Arndt, head of the Epidemiological Cancer Registry Baden-Württemberg.

Source: Cancer Registry Baden-Württemberg, 

With more than 3,000 employees, the German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) is Germany’s largest biomedical research institute. DKFZ scientists identify cancer risk factors, investigate how cancer progresses and develop new cancer prevention strategies. They are also developing new methods to diagnose tumors more precisely and treat cancer patients more successfully. The DKFZ's Cancer Information Service (KID) provides patients, interested citizens and experts with individual answers to questions relating to cancer.

To transfer promising approaches from cancer research to the clinic and thus improve the prognosis of cancer patients, the DKFZ cooperates with excellent research institutions and university hospitals throughout Germany:

  • National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT, 6 sites)
  • German Cancer Consortium (DKTK, 8 sites)
  • Hopp Children's Cancer Center (KiTZ) Heidelberg
  • Helmholtz Institute for Translational Oncology (HI-TRON Mainz) - A Helmholtz Institute of the DKFZ
  • DKFZ-Hector Cancer Institute at the University Medical Center Mannheim
  • National Cancer Prevention Center (jointly with German Cancer Aid)
The DKFZ is 90 percent financed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and 10 percent by the state of Baden-Württemberg. The DKFZ is a member of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers.


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