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The number of people in Japan diagnosed with cancer in 2020 fell 9.2% from the previous year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a joint survey from groups including the Japan Cancer Society showed.

The drop was apparently because fewer cancer tests were taken amid the pandemic. The survey covered 486 hospitals across the country between July and August with valid answers coming from 105 of them.

The survey found that the number of people diagnosed with stomach, bowel, lung, breast or cervical cancer in 2020 dropped by 8,154 from the previous year to 80,660.

By type, stomach cancer saw the biggest decline, at 13.4%, followed by bowel cancer, at 10.2%, breast cancer, at 8.2%, lung cancer, at 6.4%, and cervical cancer, at 4.8%.

The number of cases in which stomach, bowel or breast cancer was detected at an early stage dropped sharply.

Cancer appears to remain undetected among some 45,000 potential patients, the groups said. The number of surgeries also sagged for all five types of cancer, with stomach cancer surgeries logging the biggest fall, at 15.7%.

There are concerns that the country's cancer mortality rate may increase as the number of cases in which cancer is found at an advanced stage is expected to grow.

The Japan Cancer Society called on people to undergo cancer tests at an early date.

Meanwhile, the Japan Lung Cancer Society said in May that about 8,600 lung cancer patients in Japan are feared to have missed the opportunity to receive treatment last year.

The estimate, calculated from the results of a nationwide survey, reflected cancer screening cancellations and people’s reluctance to visit doctors amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to the society.

“To have cancer detected without delay, it is important to get screened on a regular basis,” a society official said.

The society targeted the survey in late October last year at university hospitals and hospitals specializing in cancer treatment. It analyzed data collected from 118 institutions across the country.

According to the survey results, the number of lung cancer patients who underwent surgery or chemotherapy between January and October 2020 stood at 18,562, down about 6.6% from January to October 2019.

As around 130,000 people in Japan are estimated to newly contract lung cancer every year, it works out that 6.6% of them, or some 8,600 people, failed to receive treatment last year, according to the society.

The survey also found that hospitals with numerous coronavirus patients tended to treat fewer lung cancer patients.

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