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Penn Medicine recently released a study revealing an increased risk of severe illness from Covid-19 for cancer patients in remission.

Credit: Max Mester

A recent Penn Medicine study found that cancer patients in remission face a high risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

The study, which was published online in JNCI Cancer Spectrum on Jan. 21, indicates that both patients currently suffering from cancer and those with inactive cancer are highly vulnerable to COVID-19. Previous studies have shown that COVID-19 patients undergoing treatment for cancer are at greater risk of suffering gravely from COVID-19 compared to patients without cancer, but they have not denoted a higher risk for severe disease and death for all oncology patients, Penn Medicine News reported. 

Penn Medicine researchers analyzed more than 4,800 records of COVID-19 tests found in the Penn Medicine BioBank to find the relationship between cancer status and susceptibility to COVID-19, Penn Medicine News reported. 

67 out of 328 patients who have tested positive in June 2020 or earlier have been diagnosed with cancer, Penn Medicine News reported. Patients who have had cancer were admitted to the hospital at a rate of 55.2%, compared to 29% of patients who have never had cancer.

Patients who have had cancer were also more than twice as likely to be admitted to intensive care units, and more than eight times as likely to die within 30 days of contracting the virus compared to people who have not had cancer.

In studying the biobank tests, researchers also found significant rates of COVID-19 among Black patients, both with and without cancer. Although they made up only 20% of the biobank, Black patients made up 65.7% of the positive results for people with cancer and 64.1% of the positive results for people without cancer. 

The study’s results support a finding by the Centers for Disease Control that Black Americans are approximately 1.4 times more likely to contract COVID-19 than their white counterparts. 

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