Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on faecal immunochemical test-based colorectal cancer screening programmes in Australia, Canada, and the Netherlands: a comparative modelling study

Colorectal cancer (CRC) screening programmes worldwide have been disrupted during the COVID-19 pandemic. This study aimed to estimate the impact of hypothetical disruptions to faecal immunochemical test-based CRC screening programmes on short and long-term CRC incidence and mortality. Microsimulation modelling was used for the period 2020–24 and cumulatively for the period 2020–50 in Australia, Canada and the Netherlands.
Without catch-up screening, analysis predicted that for 50+ year old individuals, a 3-month disruption alone would result in 414–902 additional new CRC diagnoses and 324–440 additional deaths in the Netherlands between 2020-2050. In Australia, 1672 additional diagnoses and 979 additional deaths were predicted. 1671 additional diagnoses and 799 additional deaths were predicted in Canada.
Providing immediate catch-up screening could minimise the impact of the disruption, restricting the relative increase in colorectal cancer incidence and deaths between 2020 and 2050 to less than 0·1% across all countries. Although the projected effect of short-term disruption to CRC screening is modest, such disruption will have a marked impact on future CRC incidence and deaths. It is therefore crucial that screening programmes ensure participation to return to previously observed rates and provide catch-up screening wherever possible, as this could mitigate the impact on colorectal cancer deaths.

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