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Medical News

Study Finds Association Between Hepatitis B and Pancreatic Cancer

October 3, 2008

Pancreatic cancer patients are more likely to have been infected with hepatitis B virus than those without the cancer, according to new research. HBV is known to cause liver cancer in some patients, but this is the first time an association has been made between HBV and pancreatic cancer.

Further research is necessary to determine whether HBV can actually cause pancreatic cancer, said lead author Dr. James L. Abbruzzese, chairperson of gastrointestinal medical oncology at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and colleagues.

"We don't want to be alarmist," Abbruzzese said.

Most people have a less than 1 percent chance of ever developing cancer of the pancreas. In the United States, there are about 38,000 new cases a year, and most patients die within months or a few years. In contrast, there are 1.25 million chronic HBV cases in the nation, and globally it remains a major cause of liver cancer. A vaccine can prevent HBV infection, but when an unvaccinated person is infected and develops chronic HBV, it is incurable though sometimes responsive to antivirals.

In the study, investigators compared 476 patients who had pancreatic cancer with 879 healthy patients. All participants were tested for exposure to HBV or hepatitis C. Among the cancer patients, 7.6 percent had had HBV, two times higher than the 3.2 percent of cancer-free volunteers who had ever been infected with HBV. No association was established for hepatitis C.

Abbruzzese said it may be advisable for patients who have had HBV to take precautions that reduce their pancreatic cancer risk, such as not smoking and watching their weight. Smoking is a major risk factor for pancreatic cancer, and obesity and diabetes have been linked to it.

The full report, "Association Between Hepatitis B Virus and Pancreatic Cancer," was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology (2008;26(28):4557-4562).

Back to other news for October 2008

Adapted from:
New York Times
09.30.2008; Denise Grady

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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