Androgen deprivation therapy and excess mortality in men with prostate cancer during the initial phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Men have a higher risk of death from COVID-19 than women and androgens facilitate entrance of the SARS-CoV-2 virus into respiratory epithelial cells. Thus, androgen deprivation therapy may reduce infection rates and improve outcomes for COVID-19. In the spring of 2020, Sweden was highly affected by COVID-19. The aim was to estimate the impact of androgen deprivation therapy on mortality from COVID-19 in men with prevalent prostate cancer by comparing all-cause mortality in the spring of 2020 to that in previous years.

Using the Prostate Cancer data Base Sweden all men with prostate cancer on March 1 each year in 2015-2020 were followed until June 30 the same year. Exposure to androgen deprivation therapy was ascertained from filled prescriptions for bicalutamide monotherapy, gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists (GnRH), or bilateral orchidectomy.

A total of 9,822 men died in March-June in the years 2015-2020, of whom 5,034 men were on androgen deprivation therapy. There was an excess mortality in 2020 vs previous years in all men. The crude relative mortality rate ratio for 2020 vs 2015-2019 was 0.93 (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.83 to 1.04) in men on GnRH, and 0.90 (95% CI 0.78 to 1.05) in men on bicalutamide monotherapy. After multivariable adjustment these ratios were attenuated to 1.00 (95% CI 0.89 to 1.12) and 0.97 (95% CI 0.84 to 1.12), respectively. When restricting the analysis to the regions with the highest incidence of COVID-19 or to the time period between 2 April to 10 June when mortality in 2020 was increased >30% compared to previous years, the results were similar to the main analysis.

In this large national population-based cohort of men with prevalent prostate cancer, there was no clear evidence in support for an effect of androgen deprivation therapy on COVID-19 mortality.

PloS one. 2021 Oct 07*** epublish ***

Rolf Gedeborg, Johan Styrke, Stacy Loeb, Hans Garmo, Pär Stattin

Department of Surgical Sciences, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden., Department of Surgical and Perioperative Sciences, Urology and Andrology, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden., Department of Urology and Population Health, New York University and Manhattan Veterans Affairs Medical Center, New York, New York.