Hepatitis C Increases Likelihood of Cancer Diagnosis

Cancer rates significantly greater compared with non-infected individuals.

Cancer rates significantly greater compared with non-infected individuals.

Individuals infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV) face a greater risk of cancer than non-infected patients, according to the results of a recent study.

Research presented last week at The International Liver Congress meeting suggests an extrahepatic manifestation of hepatitis C may increase the risk of cancer. The researchers noted that in addition to liver cancer, other cancer types linked with hepatitis C include non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, renal cancer, and prostate cancer.

"This data adds to the evidence bank linking hepatitis C with an increased risk of cancer, and highlights that there is still a long way to go in order to fully understand this complex and devastating disease,” said Laurent Castera, MD, vice secretary of the European Association for the Study of the Liver, in a press release.

The researchers evaluated all cancer diagnoses in patients over 18 years of age with or without hepatitis C infection from 2008 to 2012. During the timeframe, 145,210 patient years were included in the HCV group, compared with 13,948,826 patient years in the non-HCV group.

During the 5-year study duration, in the HCV group there were 2213 cancer diagnoses (1524 in 100,000), while there were 1654 cancer diagnoses when liver cancer was excluded (1139 in 100,000). In the non-infected group, there were 84,419 cancer diagnoses (605 in 100,000) and 83,795 (601 in 100,000) when liver cancer was excluded.

With all cancers included, the rate was 2.5 times higher in the HCV group, while the rate was nearly 2 times higher when liver cancers are excluded.

"The results suggest that cancer rates are increased in the cohort of hepatitis C patients versus the non-hepatitis C patients, both including and excluding liver cancers,” senior author Lisa Nyberg, MD, MPH, said in a press release. “These findings certainly point to the suggestion that hepatitis C may be associated with an increased risk of cancer. However, the findings must be interpreted with caution, as the study also showed that confounding factors such as alcohol abuse, tobacco, obesity, and diabetes modified the results."