People with a family history of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC)—a common type of liver cancer—who are also infected with the hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV) are 70 times as likely to develop liver cancer than the general population, according to a study published in Hepatology and highlighted in an accompanying news release by the journal’s publisher.
For the study, researchers gathered survey information and blood samples from a group of Italian hospital patients, ages 43 to 84, between January 1999 and July 2002. The participants included 229 people with liver cancer and 431 control group members. The study also incorporated additional data up to April 2011 regarding liver cancer among the participants and their families.
The researchers found that after adjusting for the presence of HBV or HCV, participants with a family history of liver cancer were three times as likely to develop it themselves. Those who also had hepatitis B or C were 73 times more likely to develop liver cancer than people with neither a family history of liver cancer nor a current HBV or HCV infection.
“Our findings confirm that individuals with a positive family history of liver cancer have three times higher risk of developing HCC,” notes Carlo La Vecchia, MD, MS, of the University of Milan and an author of the study. “Monitoring individuals with family history, particularly those with hepatitis markers, could help to identify HCC at an earlier stage, and hence potentially reduce mortality from HCC.”