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Background: Cancer diagnostics and surgery have been disrupted by the response of healthcare services to the COVID-19 pandemic. Progression of cancers during delay will impact on patient long-term survival. Methods: We generated per-day hazard ratios of cancer progression from observational studies and applied these to age-specific, stage-specific cancer survival for England 2013-2017. We modelled per-patient delay of three months and six months and periods of disruption of one year and two years. Using healthcare resource costing, we contextualise attributable lives saved and life years gained from cancer surgery to equivalent volumes of COVID-19 hospitalisations. Findings: Per year, 94,912 resections for major cancers result in 80,406 long-term survivors and 1,717,051 life years gained. Per-patient delay of six months would cause attributable death of 10,555 of these individuals with loss of 205,024 life years. For cancer surgery, average life years gained (LYGs) per patient are 18.1 under standard conditions and 15.9 with a delay of six months (a loss of 2.3 LYG per patient). Taking into account units of healthcare resource (HCRU), surgery results on average per patient in 2.25 resource-adjusted life years gained (RALYGs) under standard conditions and 1.98 RALYGs following delay of six months. For 94,912 hospital COVID-19 admissions, there are 474,505 LYGs requiring of 1,097,937 HCRUs. Hospitalisation of community-acquired COVID-19 patients yields on average per patient 5.0 LYG and 0.43 RALYGs. Interpretation: Delay of six months in surgery for incident cancers would mitigate 43% of life years gained by hospitalisation of an equivalent volume of admissions for community acquired COVID-19. This rises to 62% when considering resource-adjusted life-years gained. To avoid a downstream public health crisis of avoidable cancer deaths, cancer diagnostic and surgical pathways must be maintained at normal throughput, with rapid attention to any backlog already accrued. Funding: Breast Cancer Now, Cancer Research UK, Bobby Moore Fund for Cancer Research, National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)

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