Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Dr. Nyberg: The overall cancer rates were higher in patients with Hepatitis C (HCV) vs those without HCV. Of note, though, the HCV cohort had higher rates of alcohol abuse, tobacco use, cirrhosis and diabetes mellitus (DM). However, even after stratification for the variables alcohol abuse, tobacco use, body mass index (BMI) and DM; the increased cancer rates remained significant for total cancer sites, liver cancer and NHL.
Note that this study does not establish a cause and effect relationship between Hepatitis C and cancer. A strength of this study is that it is an evaluation of a large patient population (n=35,712 with HCV and 5,297,191 without HCV). Limitations of the study are those inherent in epidemiological studies using large databases. For example, confounders may not be accurately recorded in automated databases (smoking and alcohol abuse may be under-recorded).
Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Dr. Nyberg: Clinicians should advise patients to abstain from smoking and alcohol abuse, and to exercise and maintain a healthy weight to avoid or control diabetes. These are long term goals. In the short term, however, the clinician can treat and cure Hepatitis C which, according to our findings, may result in an incremental reduction in the risk of cancer.
Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Dr. Nyberg: Our findings should be confirmed by a prospective study designed to follow patients with HCV before and after Hepatitis C treatment with cure and to compare cancer rates in HCV patients with those without HCV.
Citation: Abstract presented at the April 2015
MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Lisa M. Nyberg, MD, MPH (2015). Cancer Risk Elevated In Patients With Hepatitis C