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Hepatitis Infections Behind U.S. Rise in Liver Cancer
Date:5/6/2010

More people need to be vaccinated, diagnosed and treated, CDC report says

THURSDAY, May 6 (HealthDay News) -- A type of liver cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma, is increasing in the United States, and health officials attribute much of the rise to untreated hepatitis infections.

Chronic hepatitis B and hepatitis C are responsible for 78 percent of hepatocellular carcinoma around the world. In the United States, as many as 5.3 million people have chronic viral hepatitis and don't know it, according to the May 6 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"The liver cancer rates are increasing in contrast to most other major forms of cancer," said Dr. John Ward, director of CDC's viral hepatitis division and co-author of the report. Viral hepatitis is a major reason for the increase, he said.

The rate of hepatocellular carcinoma increased from 2.7 per 100,000 persons in 2001 to 3.2 in 2006 -- an average annual increase of 3.5 percent, according to the report. The highest rates are seen among Asian Pacific Islanders and blacks, the CDC researchers noted.

This is of concern because opportunities exist for prevention, Ward noted. "There is a vaccine against hepatitis B that is routinely given to infants -- so our children are protected, but adults, for the most part, are not," he said.

In addition, good treatments exist for both hepatitis B and C, Ward explained. "These will be even more effective in the future when new drugs currently in development come on the market," he said.

It takes decades of infection with hepatitis before cancer develops, and Ward said a lot of new cases are among older people who were infected before vaccines or effective treatments were available.

Screening of anyone with chronic hepatitis is essential to prevent or treat liver cancer, Ward pointed out.

Others who should be s
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