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Decreased public pursuit of cancer-related information during the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States

Authors
  • Adelhoefer, Siegfried1, 2
  • Berning, Philipp3
  • Solomon, Stephen B.4
  • Maybody, Majid4
  • Whelton, Seamus P.1
  • Blaha, Michael J.1
  • Dzaye, Omar1, 2, 5
  • 1 Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Blalock 524D1, 600 N Wolfe St, Baltimore, MD, 21287, USA , Baltimore (United States)
  • 2 Charité, Berlin, Germany , Berlin (Germany)
  • 3 University Hospital Muenster, Muenster, Germany , Muenster (Germany)
  • 4 Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY, USA , New York (United States)
  • 5 Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA , Baltimore (United States)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Cancer Causes & Control
Publisher
Springer-Verlag
Publication Date
Mar 08, 2021
Volume
32
Issue
6
Pages
577–585
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1007/s10552-021-01409-1
Source
Springer Nature
Keywords
Disciplines
  • Original Paper
License
Yellow

Abstract

BackgroundIn response to the prioritization of healthcare resources towards the COVID-19 pandemic, routine cancer screening and diagnostic have been disrupted, potentially explaining the apparent COVID-era decline in cancer cases and mortality. In this study, we identified temporal trends in public interest in cancer-related health information using the nowcasting tool Google Trends.MethodsWe used Google Trends to query search terms related to cancer types for short-term (September 2019–September 2020) and long-term (September 2016–September 2020) trends in the US. We compared average relative search volumes (RSV) for specified time ranges to detect recent and seasonal variation.ResultsGeneral search interest declined for all cancer types beginning in March 2020, with changes in search interest for “Breast cancer,” “Colorectal cancer,” and “Melanoma” of − 30.6%, − 28.2%, and − 26.7%, respectively, and compared with the mean RSV of the two previous months. In the same time range, search interest for “Telemedicine” has increased by + 907.1% and has reached a 4-year peak with a sustained increased level of search interest. Absolute cancer mortality has declined and is presently at a 4-year low; however, search interest in cancer has been recuperating since July 2020.ConclusionWe observed a marked decline in searches for cancer-related health information that mirrors the reduction in new cancer diagnoses and cancer mortality during the COVID-19 pandemic. Health professions need to be prepared for the coming demand for cancer-related healthcare, foreshadowed by recovering interest in cancer-related information on Google Trends.

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