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BACKGROUND: The COVID-19 pandemic affected cancer screening, diagnosis and treatments. Many surgeries were substituted with bridging therapies during the initial lockdown, yet consideration of treatment side effects and their management was not a priority. OBJECTIVES: To examine how the changing social restrictions imposed by the pandemic affected incidence and trends of endocrine treatment prescriptions in newly diagnosed (incident) breast and prostate cancer patients and, secondarily, endocrine treatment-related outcomes (including bisphosphonate prescriptions, osteopenia and osteoporosis), in UK clinical practice from March 2020 to June 2022. DESIGN: Population-based cohort study using UK primary care Clinical Practice Research Datalink GOLD database. METHODS: There were 13,701 newly diagnosed breast cancer patients and 12,221 prostate cancer patients with ⩾1-year data availability since diagnosis between January 2017 and June 2022. Incidence rates (IR) and incidence rate ratios (IRR) were calculated across multiple time periods before and after lockdown to examine the impact of changing social restrictions on endocrine treatments and treatment-related outcomes, including osteopenia, osteoporosis and bisphosphonate prescriptions. RESULTS: In breast cancer patients, aromatase inhibitor (AI) prescriptions increased during lockdown versus pre-pandemic [IRR: 1.22 (95% confidence interval (CI): 1.11-1.34)], followed by a decrease post-first lockdown [IRR: 0.79 (95% CI: 0.69-0.89)]. In prostate cancer patients, first-generation antiandrogen prescriptions increased versus pre-pandemic [IRR: 1.23 (95% CI: 1.08-1.4)]. For breast cancer patients on AIs, diagnoses of osteopenia, osteoporosis and bisphosphonate prescriptions were reduced across all lockdown periods versus pre-pandemic (IRR range: 0.31-0.62). CONCLUSION: During the first 2 years of the pandemic, newly diagnosed breast and prostate cancer patients were prescribed more endocrine treatments compared to pre-pandemic due to restrictions on hospital procedures replacing surgeries with bridging therapies. But breast cancer patients had fewer diagnoses of osteopenia and osteoporosis and bisphosphonate prescriptions. These patients should be followed up in the coming years for signs of bone thinning. Evidence of poorer management of treatment-related side effects will help assess resource allocation for patients at high risk for bone-related complications.

Original publication




Journal article


Ther adv med oncol

Publication Date





COVID-19, adjuvent therapy, breast cancer, endocrine therapy < hormone therapy, pandemic, prostate cancer