The Role of Hepatitis in the Rising Incidence of Liver Cancer – By Dr. Viraj Lavingia, Director- GI Subspeciality in Medical Oncology

Cancer that begins in the liver’s cells is known as liver cancer. There are two kinds of liver cancer: primary and secondary. Primary cancer starts in your liver. Secondary cancer spreads to your liver from another part of your body. While several factors contribute to developing liver cancer, hepatitis infections, obesity, and diabetes are significant risk factors. Understanding the relationship between these factors is crucial in addressing the rising prevalence of liver cancer and promoting preventive measures, early detection, and effective management strategies.

Hepatitis B Virus and Liver Cancer

Infection caused by the Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is a major risk factor for liver cancer. Chronic hepatitis B is responsible for more than half of all liver cancer cases. HBV can cause chronic infection, leading to inflammation and gradual liver damage, increasing the risk of liver cancer. Individuals infected with HBV are also more vulnerable to other factors such as obesity and diabetes, further exacerbating the risk.

Hepatitis C Virus and Liver Cancer

Infection caused by the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is another key contributor to the increased incidence of liver cancer. Like HBV, HCV can cause chronic liver inflammation, fibrosis, and cirrhosis, ultimately leading to hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common type of liver cancer.

In recent years, obesity and diabetes have emerged as significant risk factors for liver cancer. Obesity contributes to the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which can progress to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and eventually lead to liver cancer. Similarly, individuals with diabetes are more prone to developing liver cancer, especially if they have underlying liver disease such as NAFLD or viral hepatitis.

Prevention and Treatment

  • Preventing hepatitis infections is critical for lowering the prevalence of liver cancer. Vaccination against hepatitis B is a highly effective preventive measure, especially during infancy. Furthermore, focused screening programmes to identify hepatitis B and C infected persons can aid in implementing early therapies, preventing the progression to advanced liver disease and liver cancer.
  • People already infected with chronic hepatitis B or C require immediate diagnosis and treatment. Antiviral medicines help avoid disease progression, preventing viral replication, reducing liver inflammation, and reducing viral replication. Furthermore, in high-risk individuals, monitoring and surveillance for liver cancer are critical to discovering tumours early when curative treatment options are available.

Addressing obesity and diabetes is crucial in reducing the risk of liver cancer. Here are a few words to encourage weight loss and taking care of diabetes:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Engage in regular physical activity
  • Make healthier food choices
  • Control blood sugar levels
  • Seek professional guidance

In conclusion, along with hepatitis infections, obesity and diabetes are significant risk factors contributing to the increased prevalence of liver cancer. Chronic inflammation caused by viral infections, combined with the metabolic imbalances associated with obesity and diabetes, significantly heighten the development of liver cancer. Emphasizing the importance of prevention through immunization, focused screening programs, and early detection measures, while also focusing weight loss and diabetes management, plays a vital role in addressing the burden of liver cancer. Comprehensive approaches that encompass antiviral therapies, lifestyle modifications, and regular surveillance are key to reducing the risk of liver cancer and improving patient outcomes.”

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