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Risk of Lymphoma Increases With Hepatitis C Virus Infection

People infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) are at an increased risk of developing certain lymphomas (cancers of the lymphatic system), according to a study published in the May 8, 2007, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health, and Baylor College of Medicine, found that HCV infection increased the risk of developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma by 20 percent to 30 percent.

The risk of developing Waldenstrm's macroglobulinemia (a rare type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma) went up by 300 percent and the risk for cryoglobulinemia, a condition marked by abnormal levels of certain antibodies in the blood, was also elevated for those with HCV infections.

The researchers looked at patient records collected from Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals across the United States between 1996 and 2004. Researchers selected more than 700,000 records; 146,394 represented patients who were diagnosed with the hepatitis C virus, while 572,293 represented patients who were not.

Based on that review, researchers determined, first, that the patients infected with HCV had a higher risk of developing lymphoma and, second, that HCV infection preceded development of the lymphoma. The risk of lymphomas in HCV-infected patients was charted across more than five years of follow-up.

"This is one of the largest studies ever conducted to look at the relationship between hepatitis C virus infection and cancers of the lymphatic system," said NCI Director John E. Niederhuber, M.D. "Since so much is still unknown about the causes of lymphoma, establishing which factors contribute to the disease is the first step in finding ways to reduce its incidence and lessen mortality."

HCV causes hepatitis, which is an inflammation of the liver. The HCV virus is carried through the blood and is passed from person to person through the exchange
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