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The number of people who underwent cancer screenings in Japan in the first half of the year was around 17% lower than in the pre-pandemic first half of 2019, the Japan Cancer Society said Saturday.

Although the figure for the first six months of this year more than doubled from the same period last year, the cancer society said that the coronavirus pandemic still kept many people from getting tested.

The society conducted the survey in July and August and received answers from 32 of its 42 branches that conduct cancer screenings on behalf of municipalities.

In the first half of this year, a total of 1,566,022 people were checked for stomach, lung, bowel, breast and cervical cancers.

The figure rose over twofold from the first half of 2020, which included the country’s first coronavirus state of emergency, but dived 17.4% from the first half of 2019.

Compared with the first half of 2019, the number of examinees fell about 21% for stomach cancer, some 20% for lung cancer and roughly 17% for breast cancer.

In addition to people refraining from making appointments to get tested, the cancer society also noted that some test venues limited the number of examinees to avoid crowded settings that raise COVID-19 infection risks. It also pointed to the possibility that some municipalities were busy with preparations for COVID-19 vaccinations.

“Based on past data, a decline of 10% to 20% in the number of people who undergo cancer screenings is projected to lead to a rise of 10,000 to 20,000 in the number of people with undetected cancers across the nation,” said Hiroshi Konishi, project director at the society.

Konishi called on people to undergo cancer screenings proactively while taking thorough measures against the coronavirus, noting that many forms of cancer can be successfully treated if detected at an early stage.

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