Researchers say their findings should help guide discussions between doctors and patients about the risks of Covid-19 in hospitals for patients with different types of cancer.
The study, published in the journal Lancet Oncology, examined the deaths of 319 patients who were part of a UK coronavirus cancer monitoring project between March and May this year.
They found 295 patients died from Covid-19 and those with blood cancers, such as leukaemia, lymphoma, and myeloma, were at significantly more risk of dying, particularly if they had recently had chemotherapy.
Of the 224 people with blood cancer who got coronavirus and ended up in hospital, just over 36 per cent of them died.
The effects of Covid-19 on blood has been a significant characteristic of the disease observed in hospitals with seriously ill patients suffering damaging and sometimes fatal blood clots in their lungs, heart and brains.
The virus was initially viewed as a respiratory disease that mainly damaged the lungs but doctors reported an effect dubbed “sticky blood”.
In April a study in the Lancet showed the virus affected the cells lining blood vessels.
Once the researchers accounted for age, gender and other characteristics patients with leukaemia were more than twice as likely to die if they were diagnosed with Covid-19 than the average person with cancer.
Patients with lymphoma were 72 per cent more likely to die, and people with myeloma were 65 per cent more likely to die.
What is not clear from the research is how many people with blood cancer who were infected with the virus did not go to hospital or only had mild symptoms, which would reduced the overall death rate.
Around 200,000 patients with blood cancer were part of the government’s “extremely vulnerable” category of patients and advised to shield themselves during the worst of the crisis earlier this year.
Gemma Peters, chief executive of Blood Cancer UK, said: “These findings confirm that the coronavirus is especially dangerous for people with blood cancer, and they will be very worrying for the 200,000 people in the UK who have been shielding because of it.”
She added: “Ending the shielding scheme has effectively forced people with blood cancer to go back to work at a time when it is becoming increasingly clear they are high risk of dying if they get the virus.
“We are already getting calls from people who are worried because they work in places like supermarkets and schools, which can’t easily be made Covid-safe. Unless the government gives these people financial support, more people will be put in the impossible position of having to choose between their finances and their health.”
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