There has been a “huge decrease” in potential stem cell donors, a charity has warned.
Blood cancer charity DKMS said that the number of new people signing up to its register has fallen by 40% this year compared with the same timeframe in 2020.
Data from the organisation, shared with the PA news agency, shows that this year to October 20 there were 115,005 new registrations.
By October 20, 2020, a total of 190,556 people had signed up.
Jonathan Pearce, chief executive of DKMS UK, said: “We have witnessed a huge decrease in registrations since the pandemic took hold.
“With only one in four people finding a match within their family, thousands of families each year rely on the kindness of a stranger to save their loved one’s life.
“The more people we have on the blood stem cell register, the more chance there is of finding that perfect match.”
One family from north London is making a personal plea for people to sign up.
Father-of-two Hedley Dindoyal, 50, from Friern Barnet, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in May 2020.
After various courses of treatment Mr Dindoyal, who was born in Britain but whose family originate from Mauritius, was told his last option would be through a blood stem cell transplant from an unrelated donor.
But he faces shorter odds of finding a perfect match due to his heritage.
“I have two beautiful children, Milo, 12, and Jasmine, nine, who need me, and I want to be there to guide them through their lives and watch them grow up, with my wife, Lucy, by my side,” he said.
“I am now on my third cancer treatment, which will need to be consolidated with a stem cell transplant from an unrelated donor, to keep the lymphoma away for good, and give me back my life.
“But as a British-born Mauritian, I am looking for a donor on a register, knowing there is less likely to be a match from my own ethnic background.
“So I am especially appealing for people from an Indian, black or Chinese background to come forward.”
Mr Pearce added: “Blood cancer patients from Black, Asian or minority ethnicity groups face even more daunting odds due to the lack of donor diversity.
“These patients have just a 20% chance of finding the best possible stem cell donor match, compared to 69% for northern European backgrounds.
“At DKMS, we are dedicated to the fight against blood cancer and in the UK we are proud to have registered over 870,000 blood stem cell donors.
“Yet we still need many more registrations to meet the demand from people desperately seeking a vital donation from a complete stranger.”
People aged between 17-55 and in general good health can sign up for a home swab kit online at https://www.dkms.org.uk/register-now.
The swabs are returned in pre-paid envelope to DKMS to add a person’s details to the UK’s aligned stem cell register.