Hepatitis-related carcinoma predicted to impact U.S. soon

November 07, 1999

Japanese experience indicates possibility of similar problems in the United States

Dallas--A new study released for the first time at the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) 1999 Annual Meeting in Dallas, November 5-9, suggests that the United States may soon be seeing an increase in carcinoma cases related to hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection.

Masashi Mizokami, M.D., Nagoya City University Medical School, said that the incidence of the HCV infection is about the same in Japan as in the U.S., but the incidence of HCV-related heptacellular carcinoma (HCC) is eight times higher in Japan. Mizokami's group used a technique called molecular evolutionary analysis to estimate the time that HCV spread from its source in both countries. They estimate that HCV began to diverge in Japan around 1945 and around 1965 in the U.S.

According to Mizokami, during World War II "methamphetamine was widely used--in Japan--to improve the fighting spirit of the soldiers. This was followed by the use of intravenous drugs and blood transfusions for the treatment of depression during the collapsed society" after the war was over. In the United States, Mizokami says, intravenous drug use and the sharing of needles was a common practice from 1966 to 1970.

Mizokami notes that this time difference may explain why the health impact of HCV in Japan is higher than that in the U.S. But he warns that the incidence of HCC in Japan increased in 1975, around three decades after the spread of the HCV infection. "Projecting from these numbers," Mizokami concludes, "the incidence of HCC and its related health impacts will soon start to climb in the United States, three decades after 1966-1970."
AASLD is the leading medical organization for advancing the science and practice of hepatology. Founded by physicians in 1950, AASLD's vision is to prevent and cure liver disease. Today, AASLD provides representation and education for nearly 2,400 liver researchers, physicians, and surgeons worldwide.

K-M Communications

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