Children with cancer don’t have a higher risk of being affected by COVID-19 or of having severe symptoms, a new study finds.
“We are encouraged by these latest findings that kids with cancer are not more endangered by COVID-19 and their symptoms are mild like in healthy children,” said study leader Dr. Andrew Kung, chair of the pediatric cancer program MSK Kids at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.
“These findings allow us to continue lifesaving cancer-directed therapy with standard precautions and safeguards but without heightened concern about adverse effects from COVID-19 infection,” Kung said in a Sloan Kettering news release.
His team tested 178 child cancer patients and their parents/caregivers for COVID-19. The researchers found that 29.3% of the children with symptoms were positive, compared with 2.5% of those without symptoms. Of the 20 children who tested positive for COVID-19, only three were girls.
Only one child with COVID-19 required non-critical care hospitalization for their symptoms. All the others had mild disease symptoms and were managed at home.
Of the 74 parents/caregivers tested, 13 were positive for COVID-19, including 14.7% of those without symptoms.
Only half of the 10 childhood cancer patients whose parents/caregivers had COVID-19 also had COVID-19, which suggests low risk of infection in the children despite people close to them having COVID-19, the researchers said.
While they pointed out that there was only a small number in the study, the findings show that the overall morbidity of COVID-19 illness in pediatric cancer patients is low, with only 5% requiring hospitalization for symptoms of COVID-19 infection, the researchers said. They also noted the rate of COVID-19 infection among asymptomatic pediatric patients is very low.
The study was published May 13 in the journal JAMA Oncology.
The American Cancer Society has more on cancer in children.