The increasing rate of liver cancer that the United States has seen this century has slowed in recent years, although not among baby boomers (individuals born between 1945 and 1965), who have the highest rates of hepatitis C virus (HCV). But the introduction of new, highly effective hep C treatments in 2013 may eventually begin to improve these trends among older Americans.

Publishing their findings in the journal Gastroenterology, researchers analyzed data from the U.S. Cancer Statistics registry, which covers 97 percent of the U.S. population.

The investigators found that the overall annual rate, or incidence, of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC, the most common form of liver cancer) per 100,000 people increased from 4.4 cases in 2000 to 6.7 cases in 2012. This rate increased by a factor of 4.5 percent annually between 2000 and 2009 but by only 0.7 percent annually between 2010 and 2012.    

Between 2010 and 2012, the average annual percentage change in the liver cancer rates was 3.7 percent among men and 2.7 percent among women. Broken down by age, during this period, the highest annual percentage change in liver cancer rates was among 55- to 59 year-olds, at 8.9 percent, and among 60- to 64-year-olds, at 6.4 percent.

Regarding higher liver cancer rates among baby boomers, the study authors discussed the potential effects of newer hep C treatments on future liver cancer rates: “The directly acting antivirals may affect overall HCC incidence rates over the next one to two decades, but the magnitude and timing of anticipated decreases in HCC incidence rates will depend greatly on the availability and penetration of HCV treatment as well as increased detection, diagnosis and linkage to care of individuals with chronic HCV infection.”

To read the study abstract, click here.