Hepatitis B exposure, pancreatic cancer risk linked

September 30th, 2008 - 1:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Sep 30 (IANS) Researchers have uncovered how exposure to hepatitis B virus or HBV may heighten the risk of pancreatic cancer.The study, undertaken by MD Anderson Cancer Centre of Texas University, also suggests that patients of this lethal form of cancer who undergo chemotherapy may face danger of reactivation of their HBV.

Besides, the study confirmed previously reported risk associations of cigarette smoking, history of diabetes and a family history of pancreatic cancer.

The study began in 2000, with 476 Anderson Centre patients who were identified with early pancreatic cancer. Additionally, 879 people without pancreatic cancer were matched with the patients by age, gender and race. All participants were interviewed for demographic and risk factors information.

“If this study is validated, it will give us more information about the risk factors of pancreatic cancer and possibly even help prevent it in some cases,” said co-author Manal Hassan, assistant professor in Anderson Department of Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology.

Pancreatic cancer is diagnosed in 37,000 people in the US every year out of which more than 34,000 also die annually, according to American Cancer Society. It is often diagnosed in the late stages and is especially perplexing because few risk factors are known, according to a release of the Anderson Centre.

HBV and hepatitis C virus (HCV) are major global health problems, affecting about two percent of global population. In the US 1.25 million people have chronic HBV, while 3.2 million have chronic HCV.

These systemic viruses can harm the body in a variety of ways, including traversing the bloodstream and damaging tissues throughout the body.

The word “hepatitis” means “inflammation of the liver,” and previous research has shown HBV and HCV are major causes of liver cancer. Little is known about their roles in other cancers.

However, the proximity of the liver to the pancreas and the fact the pancreas and liver share common blood vessels and ducts make the pancreas a potential target for hepatitis viruses.

While this is the first study to examine whether exposure to HBV and HCV increases risk for pancreatic cancer, other research has indicated chronic HBV infection may impair pancreatic function and that HBV may replicate in the pancreas, Hassan said.

Researchers stressed these early results if confirmed, may offer new insight into pancreatic cancer, possibly even preventing some cases in the future.

This report was published in the Wednesday edition of the Journal of Clinical Oncology

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