Delays to cancer surgery delays could cost more lives than the number of COVID-19 patients saved, academics have said.
The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) has carried out modelling which shows that for some cancers, a three-month delay could make the difference between a tumour being curable or not.
Professor Clare Turnbull said thousands of premature deaths could be avoided.
NHS England is already urging people to seek help for worrying symptoms – but by the end of April, cancer referrals had dropped by an estimated 70%.
It is thought that lung and colorectal cancers are those that are most urgent, while treatment for prostate and certain breast cancers, is less so.
For every 10 Covid-19 patients whose lives were saved in hospital, four cancer patients could die, according to the ICR study, if all tumour-removal surgeries are delayed by six months.
Every year, there are 95,000 operations to remove common cancers in adults in England.
The ICR study is available here.