Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer

CDC – Liver Cancer Update

On Wednesday, March 9, 2016, the Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, (1975-2012) was released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries. The good news: the report reveals declines in the incidences of many forms of cancer. However, the bad news: the opposite trend was reported with liver cancer. Statistics identify that in a nine year span, from 2003-2012, there has been a 72% increase in rates of liver cancer among Americans. In 2003, there were 16,265 liver cancer diagnoses, however, by 2012, these rates surged to 28,012 diagnoses. Not only are the number of individuals affected by liver cancer increasing, but the rates of deaths associated with liver cancer are increasing rapidly as well. In fact, there has been a 56% increase in deaths as a result of liver cancer since 2003.

These alarming statistics have been attributed to the following: 50% of liver cancer cases are associated with Hepatitis C (HCV), 15% related to Hepatitis B (HBV) and 35% related to other causes, which may include: obesity, type 2 diabetes and consumption of too much alcohol.

Hepatitis B, is a viral infection, passed from an infected individual through blood, saliva, semen or other body fluids. HBV disproportionately affects Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs). Hepatitis C, is a viral infection, passed from blood to blood contact. This means that the blood of an HCV infected individual would have to enter the blood stream of another. HCV is found disproportionately among baby boomers, or individuals born between 1945-1965. New infection rates are also affecting a generation of younger persons who inject drugs and share drug injection equipment. The CDC recommends that people in this age range (1945-1965), as well as those with risk factors get tested for hepatitis C and linked to care if the test results are positive (this means both the Hepatitis C antibody and viral load tests.) Left untreated, chronic hepatitis (both Hepatitis B and C) lead to liver scarring, cirrhosis and other damage that can result in serious health issues, including the potential to develop liver cancer. Viral Hepatitis often goes undiagnosed, and individuals are unaware of their status because liver disease is often asymptomatic, or without symptoms, until the disease progresses to advanced stages. This needs to change! These liver cancer rates and associated deaths are largely preventable; both Hepatitis B and C are preventable and treatable. In order to achieve this, increased efforts for screening and linking individuals to medical care is required.

Hepatitis B is preventable by vaccine. This vaccine is included in the infant vaccine schedule; it is found to be safe and effective. While there is no cure for HBV, treatments exist to prevent progression of the disease, particularly to cirrhosis, liver failure, and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Hepatitis C, on the other hand, does not have a vaccine to prevent the development of a chronic infection. However, for those living with chronic HCV advancements in the treatment landscape offer safe, tolerable and effective regimens that deliver a cure. Being cured from HCV eliminates the risk of further transmission. It also reduces the risk of advancement staged medical complications including liver cancer. In some cases, the liver can actually start to repair itself.

While Hepatitis C is curable, the cost of the medications often act as a barrier to accessing treatment. However, the guidelines from the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) and the Infectious Disease Society of America do recommend treatment for everyone living with Hepatitis C. There are programs available to help promote access (please see Resources) or call Help4Hep at 877-435-7443 to receive support and referrals to local resources. The bottom line is, individuals need access to prevention, testing and treatment in order to reduce rates of transmission and ultimately reduce the burden of liver cancer and associated deaths. Talk to your doctor to make sure your vaccines are up-to-date, you are tested and linked to medical care.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Ryerson, A. B., Eheman, C. R., Altekruse, S. F., Ward, J. W., Jemal, A., Sherman, R. L.,… Kohler, B. A. (2016), Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, 1975-2012, featuring the increasing incidence of liver cancer. Cancer. doi: 10.1002/cncr.29936
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2016), CDC Fact Sheet: Viral Hepatitis and Liver Cancer.