Heavy drinking takes excessive toll on women with hepatitis C

January 25, 2007

Women tend to survive longer than men if infected with the liver-destroying hepatitis C virus (HCV) -- but if they drink heavily, that survival advantage completely disappears, according to a new study.

"Previous studies indicated that alcohol use is a risk factor for HCV disease progression, but they seldom examined the effect on women and men separately," said lead author Chiung Chen. "Even fewer studies were able to examine the effect of alcohol on HCV mortality. Our study provides empirical evidence to fill the gap."

Chen is a research analyst at CSR Incorporated, which conducted the study under contract with the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The study appears in the February issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

The study examined all of the HCV- and heavy-drinking-related deaths in the Multiple Cause of Death files of the National Center for Health Statistics, a total of 132,468 deaths. Women with hepatitis C who were not heavy drinkers died at an average age of 61 -- but those who drank excessively died, on average, at just over 49. For men, hepatitis C in combination with heavy drinking lowered the average age of death from a little over 55 years to 50.

Chen said evidence from previous studies "indicates that men are less likely to clear acute HCV infection than women, so we are a little bit surprised that the slight advantage for women is completely wiped out by heavy drinking."

"The study has the advantages of being massive and of relatively simple design, and applies epidemiological tools not much previously used on this question of HCV, heavy alcohol use and gender relationships," said Alex DeLuca, M.D., who is not associated with the study. "I think the most important findings are the ones that confirm our general understanding from clinical experience and other research approaches."

DeLuca, former chief and medical director of the Smithers Addiction Treatment and Research Center in New York City, said that the research supported earlier findings that women with hepatitis C generally have a slower progression of the disease, but that heavy drinking is in general harder on women than men.

The authors say a study limitation is that treatments like interferon, antiviral medications and liver transplants are often denied to heavy drinkers because they are less likely to be able to benefit -- but this could also contribute to their early deaths.
-end-
By Maia Szalavitz, Contributing Writer Health Behavior News Service

Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research: Contact Mary Newcomb at (317) 375-0819 or mnewcomb-acer@earthlink.net or visit www.alcoholism-cer.com

Chen CM, et al. Alcohol and hepatitis C mortality among males and females in the United States: a life table analysis. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 31(2), 2007.

Center for Advancing Health

Related Hepatitis Articles from Brightsurf:

Busting Up the Infection Cycle of Hepatitis B
Researchers at the University of Delaware have gained new understanding of the virus that causes hepatitis B and the ''spiky ball'' that encloses its genetic blueprint.

Liver cancer: Awareness of hepatitis D must be raised
Scientists from the University of Geneva (UNIGE) and the Geneva University Hospitals (HUG) have studied the most serious consequence of chronic hepatitis: hepatocellular carcinoma.

Hepatitis B: New therapeutic approach may help to cure chronic hepatitis B infection
Researchers at Helmholtz Zentrum München, Technical University of Munich (TUM) and the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF) have developed a novel therapeutic approach to cure chronic hepatitis B.

Anti-hepatitis medicine surprises
A new effective treatment of hepatitis C not only combats the virus, but is also effective against potentially fatal complications such as reduced liver functioning and cirrhosis.

Nanotechnology delivers hepatitis B vaccine
X-ray imaging shows that nanostructured silica acts as a protective vehicle to deliver intact antigen to the intestine so that it can trigger an immune response.

Checkmate for hepatitis B viruses in the liver
Researchers at Helmholtz Zentrum München and the Technical University of Munich, working in collaboration with researchers at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf and the University Hospital Heidelberg, have for the first time succeeded in conquering a chronic infection with the hepatitis B virus in a mouse model.

How common is Hepatitis C infection in each US state?
Hepatitis C virus infection is a major cause of illness and death in the United States and injection drug use is likely fueling many new cases.

New strains of hepatitis C found in Africa
The largest population study of hepatitis C in Africa has found three new strains of the virus circulating in the general population in sub-Saharan Africa.

High stability of the hepatitis B virus
At room temperature, hepatitis B viruses (HBV) remain contagious for several weeks and they are even able to withstand temperatures of four degrees centigrade over the span of nine months.

Findings could lead to treatment of hepatitis B
Researchers have gained new insights into the virus that causes hepatitis B -- a life-threatening and incurable infection that afflicts more than 250 million people worldwide.

Read More: Hepatitis News and Hepatitis Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.