Unemployment and cancer screening: Baseline estimates to inform health care delivery in the context of COVID-19 economic distress.

During the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic, US unemployment rates rose to historic highs, and they remain nearly double those of prepandemic levels. Employers are the most common source of health insurance among nonelderly adults. Thus, job loss may lead to a loss of health insurance and reduce access to cancer screening. This study examined associations between unemployment, health insurance, and cancer screening to inform the pandemic's potential impacts on early cancer detection.

Up-to-date and past-year breast, cervical, colorectal, and prostate cancer screening prevalences were computed for nonelderly respondents (aged <65 years) with 2000-2018 National Health Interview Survey data. Multivariable logistic regression models with marginal probabilities were used to estimate unemployed-versus-employed unadjusted and adjusted prevalence ratios.

Unemployed adults (2000-2018) were 4 times more likely to lack insurance than employed adults (41.4% vs 10.0%; P < .001). Unemployed adults had a significantly lower up-to-date prevalence of screening for cervical cancer (78.5% vs 86.2%; P < .001), breast cancer (67.8% vs 77.5%; P < .001), colorectal cancer (41.9 vs 48.5%; P < .001), and prostate cancer (25.4% vs 36.4%; P < .001). These differences were eliminated after accounting for health insurance coverage.

Unemployment was adversely associated with up-to-date cancer screening, and this was fully explained by a lack of health insurance. Ensuring the continuation of health insurance coverage after job loss may mitigate the pandemic's economic distress and future economic downturns' impact on cancer screening.

Cancer. 2021 Nov 08 [Epub ahead of print]

Stacey A Fedewa, K Robin Yabroff, Priti Bandi, Robert A Smith, Nigar Nargis, Zhiyuan Zheng, Jeffrey Drope, Ahmedin Jemal

Surveillance and Health Equity Sciences, Office of Cancer Research and Implementation, American Cancer Society, Atlanta, Georgia., Early Detection and Screening, Office of Cancer Research and Implementation, American Cancer Society, Atlanta, Georgia., Healthy Policy and Administration, School of Public Health, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.