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In a research letter to the British Journal of Surgery (BJS) a team of plastic surgeons reveal the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on skin cancer surgery in the UK.

A doctor looks at the moles on someone's back

Abhilash Jain, Associate Professor of Plastic and Hand Surgery at NDORMS, was the senior author that conducted a multi-centre, prospective cohort study and survey of Plastic Surgeons. 

A national audit of skin cancer excisions by Plastic Surgeons was carried out throughout lockdown (March 16 – June 14 2020), and compared to a control - data collected immediately prior to lockdown (March 16 – 22 ) while normal NHS activities were still being undertaken. Data on 2050 patients from 32 Plastic Surgery units were included, as well as consecutive monthly surveys of Plastic Surgeons from 34 units to confirm trends. 

The study found that all skin cancer treatment was negatively affected by the pandemic:

  • The median number of general anaesthetic (GA) lists per week per institution fell from 3 pre-lockdown to 0⋅5 in April
  • Local anaesthetic (LA) lists were reduced in April and May but recovered in June.
  • The number of non-melanoma skin cancer’s (NMSC) treated per week fell by 27-47% throughout April
  • Excision of Squamous cell carcinomas (71%) was prioritised over basal cell carcinomas (28%) 

Abhilash said: “Overall we saw a lower number of surgeries for tumours taking place. At the same time there was a reduction in Moh’s surgery, radiotherapy services and fewer patients being offered immunotherapy. Long term the risk of untreated skin cancer may now be considered greater than COVID-19 and we would urge that all cancer services be resumed urgently.”

 

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