Patients with cancer are more likely to contract the COVID-19 coronavirus and experience complications from the infection—and the risk is highest for Black patients, study findings show. Researchers published the report in JAMA Oncology.

In a retrospective, case-control analysis of 73.4 million patient electronic health records from 360 hospitals and 317,000 clinicians across 50 U.S. states, researchers assessed COVID-19 infections in patients with 13 common cancer types and the adverse outcomes. Of the patients with COVID-19 in the records, 1,200 had a cancer diagnosis and 690 had a recent cancer diagnosis of at least 1 of the 13 cancers.

Researchers found that a recent cancer diagnosis significantly increased risk for COVID-19 infection, particularly for leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and lung cancer. Thyroid cancer was associated with the lowest risk for COVID-19 infection. Patients with cancer also had worse outcomes during COVID-19 (hospitalization, 47.46%; death, 14.93%) than patients with COVID-19 but not cancer (hospitalization, 24.26%; death, 5.26%) and patients with cancer but not COVID-19 (hospitalization, 12.39%; death, 4.03%).

They also identified a racial disparity with risk of COVID-19 infection during cancer: Black patients were at significantly higher risk than White patients, particularly those with breast, prostate, colorectal, or lung cancer.

“This large nationwide database allows us to identify early trends in risks, disparities, and outcomes of COVID-19 in patients with cancer engaged with healthcare systems on a nationwide basis,” the authors wrote. “The findings highlight the need to protect and monitor patients with cancer as part of the strategy to control the pandemic.”